Back to Back-to-School

Back to Back-to-School

welcome back to schoolReady or not it’s back to school time, and since the concept of schools took form, there have been individuals marketing to families at the start of the school year.  Heck, toga sellers in Ancient Greece likely tried to give discounts to early students at the Plato Academy!

Although this stage of life is a timeless right-of-passage for most American families, the way marketers and advertisers target their audiences has evolved to keep up with the trend of technology and digital advertising.  

Let’s take a look at some suggestions to help all of this take shape:

Use old-fashioned ideas with a new-school digital twist.

The exact same promotional ideas that worked for Mad Men in 1967 still apply in 2018: contesting, giveaways, events and coupons/discounts. Nowadays, however, they need to be managed with the technology of the modern age. The internet provides an efficient method to reach millions of potential consumers with a limited budget.  

Marketing events such as contests must be offered both in store and online to reach their full potential.  Sbarro Pizza gave away iPads a few years ago for a back-to-school contest. Customers could enter the contest and every physical location, but they also could participate on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram by answering a question of “How does Sbarro help you get ready for school?”  Even better, the giveaway required all participants to tag their posts with #sbarroscholar in order to have the opportunity to win. This helped Sbarro build their online presence and is just another example of advertisers taking advantage of the power of social media.

Change your voice depending on your audience.

Marketers have always used different creative vehicles for the various media outlets. McDonald’s runs kid-friendly content during Saturday-morning cartoons and more adult focused advertisements throughout the evening news. This same logic applies to social media advertising. Be sure to use the voice that matches the typical user of the channel. Moms are all over Pinterest, therefore content placed on this site should be more family focused; kids use Snapchat, so kid-friendly focus is a higher priority for this platform; business professionals use LinkedIn, so content here needs a professional tone.

Let children own the experience

kids at school

If the your target audience is children, why not let kids own the campaign? Today’s youth are media savvy and happen to be creating content to share online on their own.Consider letting kids create your back-to-school campaign. Target utilized this strategy for its 2016 back-to-school effort, during which they allowed children to write, direct, produce and star in their commercials. The creative content was unique and fun, and Target received lots of social media buzz as a result of this approach. Just think about how different your media would be if your target audience actually developed the concept and content for you!


Expand your target – it’s not just about the kids

More than 50 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools in 2018, and yet another 5 million will attend private schools. More than 3 million educators teach at the more than 100,000 schools in the USA. If you factor in the parents and grandparents , as well as the lunch ladies, staff, PTOs and all those involved in going back to school, the target is now over half of our population!  The moral of the story is, do not restrict your marketing efforts just to the kids.

Target those relieved parents

The vast majority of back-to-school coverage focuses on the kids (even though we just explained that sideways logic), but the parents are not to be ignored. The stay-at-home parent now has free time!  Summertime kid stress is now melting away. Even non-school-related goods and services like hair salons, spas and gyms should fight to sell their products to fill those new extra hours.

Target the teachers

TeacherThe 3 million teachers in our country represent a well-respected audience who need to be targeted.  Align your business with their career. Just like you see businesses offer a military or veteran discount, you need to consider a teacher discount. Additionally, with unemployment hitting record lows, look at working around school hours to provide flexible part-time jobs that work around educator schedules.  And last but not least, consider featuring a teacher in your advertising. Education is a trusted profession and the hard-working teach may be the ideal spokesperson you’ve been looking for!


Acknowledge anxiety

Great advertising is based on good research. Business owners need to understand what consumers want and then deliver on these desires. When considering back-to-school campaigns, broaden your focus from the products needed (pencils and books) to include an understanding of the reason why the customers want them. This includes the emotions involving that need/want. Going back to school is all about the transitions. Both children and parents are transitioning to another level and everyone is concerned about the unknown.

Use the fears and tears

Virtually every back-to-school ad shows smiling children walking through the colorful and happy halls of a school. That isn’t necessarily reality. Use the real-life emotions that occur to more of the masses. Some kids are scared, they wonder if they’ll make friends or like their teacher.   Kleenex did a moving”Commitment to Care” campaign that featured kids honestly speaking about their fears of going to a new school. Each one expressed their true feelings and by the end they realized they had more in common than they expected. Their fear is the thing that brought them together.  This creative and authentic campaign broke through the clutter of the normal happy-go-lucky cookie cutter ads.

Don’t forget college

high school collegeStarting college isn’t easy, and if you want to cut through the clutter, making light of this process is recommended. In a video series for Best Buy, comedian Adam Devine demonstrated a way to bribe an ethics professor with smartphones, autotune presentations, and how to utilize noise-canceling headphones to drown out roommate annoyances. The situations of interacting with new professors, courses and roommates were relatable, but Best Buy also discovered how to show that life can be made simpler and funnier with the technologies offered in its stores. Kleenex went with tears, Best Buy chose humor, but both worked toward precisely the same conclusion. They made their brands relatable by playing with the emotional reality that is starting college.



Combining these proven tactics with modern technology, you are able to engage students, teachers and parents alike for the 2018-2019 school year.  Now go get back to school!

Back to School Advertising

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