By: Ashley Byars
It’s that time of year again…kids with new haircuts and new backpacks. The smell of sharpened pencils and rubber erasers lingering in the air. Ah yes, Back to School. Summer is over and it’s time to swap my flip flops for sensible dad shoes.
It’s also the time of year when I’m bombarded with Back-to-School ads. In fact, that started weeks ago. I hadn’t even made it to the pool before Back-to-School catalogues appeared in my mailbox. Brands are starting earlier each year, trying to capture their share of the second- largest shopping season of the year.
There were several Back-to-School campaign trends that caught my eye this year – from cause marketing efforts to innovative approaches that addressed the new realities of an omni-channel retail environment. Successful campaigns were those that seemed to understand what would resonate with parents and students, and the best ways to reach to them.
- Several brands grabbed attention with celebrity-driven campaigns. For these campaigns, the key to success is finding the right celebrity that aligns with your brand and resonates with your target audience. Brands also tap into power of celebrity to drive social engagement. Standout efforts included a Facebook Live concert by Hunter Hayes to kick off Lowe’s Renovation Across the Nation program with Boys & Girls Clubs of America. One element of this program is a Back2School register campaign at 1,700 Lowe’s locations August 8 – September 5, 2017. Converse’s First Day Feels GIF-focused campaign with child-star Millie Bobby, from Netflix’s Stranger Things, and Staples’ campaign focused on positive learning environments in partnership with Lady Gaga.
- I personally enjoyed the storytelling campaigns highlighting teachers and students. Brands have found the magic in using “everyday” people to authentically reflect and connect with their target audiences. Old Navy created a series of highly entertaining and moving music videos created and performed by talented teachers from across the country. These videos are even more meaningful as a celebration of Old Navy’s larger effort to support the next generation in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.
- Brands continue to have success with cause-related promotions. During this season of deals and discounts, social impact is yet another way to incentivize shoppers. Standout campaigns were those that supported a relevant and compelling cause, and made it easy for consumers to participate. While supporting classrooms and teachers with school supplies is very popular, JCPenney took a unique, yet simple approach with its PairUp. For every pack of kids socks and underwear sold, the company is donating one to a child in need.
- This year, I also noted several platform-specific campaigns built with millennials and their preferred channels in mind, like Snapchat, YouTube and Vine. These brands understand that traditional ads are less effective in reaching today’s young consumers and are taking a more focused approach. Ikea looked to Snapchat to reach the college-bound audience, and partnered with the online comedy stars Superfruit. The brand created a platform-specific video where users could “swipe up” to take a quiz and find dorm room products to match their taste.
These are just a few trends that caught my eye. You can find more examples and insights in our 2017 Back-to-School review. While it may seem early, this is a good time to collect ideas and get inspired for 2018.