John Hancock is trying to get parents, grandparents and others to think about college savings.

Hancock, Boston, a unit of Manulife Financial Corp., Toronto, is linking an “Explore, Dream, Discover” 529 college savings plan promotional campaign to the back-to-school shopping season.

From now until Sept. 17, Hancock will send financial services professionals college savings direct mail pieces and sales ideas, the company says.

The company also will send a “lunchbox kit” that will include a 529 plan brochure, information about the Hancock 529 plan, and college savings novelty items such as pencils, 4-color pens and flashlight keychains.