Lessons Learned from Successful Back-to-School Campaigns

Whether you’re still a student yourself, or are parenting someone who is, we all experience a little nostalgia come back-to-school season. For some, it’s a longing to get back to the books, for others it’s a feeling of sadness that summer has come to an end ­– either way it’s something that evokes emotion in us all.

This led us to wonder how brands have had a hand in shaping these feelings and the shopping that follows. Back-to-school is the second largest retail period of the year, only after the Christmas holiday season. According to DMN, it brings in $75 billion each year worldwide.

To get a piece of the pie, each brand has to stand out among the rest and capture the attention of audiences: K-12, post-secondary students, and the parents who foot the bill.

Campaigns that made the grade

To understand why some back-to-school ads are so successful, we’ve taken a look at some of the latest campaigns and the marketing trends that we think deserve an A+!

Target – Invite audience participation

This summer, Target used the power of crowdsourcing to create their 2016 back-to-school ad campaign. They invited children aged 8-17 to share their school stories with the world through a creative video series called To School and Beyond. The children wrote, directed and acted in each short clip, incorporating school supplies and other related products into the sets.

User-generated content is a creative way to involve customers and fans with your branding. The authenticity of the ads can also lead to an increase in social media shares, not only of the final product created, but also during the call for submissions to participate in the campaign.

Target’s partnership with the kids helps to show that they not only have the school supplies and products needed for them to succeed, but they also believe in their potential to create something great, including the evolution of the Target brand.

Staples – Focus on convenience of online shopping

The ease of online shopping cannot be beat. But when it comes to crunch time, and you have little ones who need supplies for tomorrow’s math class, a few days just might not cut it. Staples is here to help with their latest spin on online shopping. They now offer a Back to school sanity saver: Shop online. Pick up at Staples in 2 hours.

Their 2016 back-to-school ad depicts a student unknowingly dropping their supplies on the way to school while Mom quickly swipes through the online store, replacing them as needed, with a quick stop at her local store to pick up her purchases. The parallel view gives humor to a situation we can all relate to, while embedding in our minds just how easy it can be to pick up what we need, when we need it.

Ziploc – Think outside the box (or in this case bag)

Ziploc bags are something that you can find in your cupboard any time of year. But in 2014, the reusable bag brand decided to focus on the many other uses of their products during this time with their Back to School Needs Ziploc® campaign. No longer just for sandwiches, the bags can be used for backpack and school supply organization, crafts and home décor.

Rebranding a product can give it new life, another example of this is the Shreddies Diamond rebrand. Putting a spin on an existing product, or finding creative ways to expand their use, can lead to a whole new market.

Kleenex – Appeal to the emotions

Just like Ziploc, Kleenex is another product that can be found in your home year-round. So to stand out among the rest, the brand appealed to the emotions with their Remember Your First Day video ad series, communicating that the first day of school can be an emotional one, as a student and a teacher. They are reminding us to have tissues on hand because at one point in the day, it is likely that someone will need one.

Emotional advertising, when done correctly, can be very effective. It puts benefits first, and features second. Kleenex has successfully connected the dots that giving someone a tissue can be just as comforting as giving a hug, or comforting words during an emotional time.

Toms – Hold social media giveaways

As mentioned, the back-to-school season is the second largest retail season of the year, meaning it’s also an expensive time of year for families. Toms is already known for giving back with their One for One program, but in 2014 they decided to give a few lucky families a break with the chance to win a $500 gift card through their #TOMS Give Back to School contest. Through social media, specifically Pinterest, the brand invited their fans to enter their contest by pinning their favourite apparel trends for the new season including Toms shoes.

Contests are an easy way to build brand awareness. And social media has only added to the ease in which you can do so. For the small price of the prize you give away, what you get back can far outweigh the costs, including an increase in fans and followers, more engagement on your social pages, and lead generation for future campaigns.

Want to improve your B2S report card?

It may be too late to join the back-to-school bandwagon, but if you’re thinking about launching a new campaign, we can help lead the way! Contact our team for help on making the grade.

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