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Back-to-School is around the corner… but didn’t we just get out?

Does this scenario sound familiar to you?

You or your children have been out for summer break for a couple of weeks now. You are scrolling through your phone for some fun summer things to plan when… you begin to see ads promoting backpacks and notebooks!

As a consumer, thinking about back-to-school is the last thing you want when you’ve just begun summer. But, we as marketers must always be 1-2 seasons ahead preparing campaigns for successful execution.  Not only do we have to be prepared, but we must make our brands top of mind amidst all other brands’ back-to-school products and services. Per the United States Census Bureau in one of their July 2016 editions of Facts for Features, in 2014 there were:

  • 7,351 children and infants clothing stores
  • 25,214 shoe stores
  • 6,823 office supply and stationery stores
  • 6,888 bookstores
  • 7,898 department stores

How can you stand out with all those brands’ messages?

While there is a big focus to pitch your brand’s top products of the season, you should always keep the customer experience top-of-mind.  Along with products, your campaign should put focus on an acquisition strategy, geographic location and lifestyle stage.


If you are acquiring customers for the first time during back-to-school, you will want to make sure you nurture them as well as get to know them. The goal is to convert them into a year-round customer, while understanding what BTS product caught their attention. You could have them take a survey to learn more about what types of products/services interest them, while collecting personal information to better market to them.

Geographic Location

Depending on where your customers live, they could be ready to be fully engaged with back-to-school messaging on July 1st (customers living in the south), or want to learn more about your summer line (customers living in the North East). While value and messaging should be consistent throughout your campaign, you should adhere to the timing of who receives what and when.Once all customers are back in school, you could do a follow up campaign to show everyone the type of style that was most popular around the country, and have customers compare to see if their style type matches their location!

Lifestyle Stage

Utilizing existing customer back to school purchase data should be your biggest asset in standing out from other brands. Knowing the ages of the children along with the styles, colors, and sizes that have been purchased in the past can give your brand a leg up in experiential marketing. Brands can take this data and promote products based on what the child’s current age/size/school year is going to be. In addition to that, you could put fun facts about the grade the child is entering to show that you value them as a customer.

While parents are primarily the ones doing the shopping, your campaigns should still be fun for everyone. Keep the brands’ values & messaging consistent, but tailor the execution to the customer’s lifestyle stage. Below are some examples of back-to-school campaigns that you can use to involve customers of different lifestyle stages:

13+ children:

  • Enter a social media contest! Send in a picture to Instagram or Facebook wearing the latest line of BTS products, and enter to win a $200 gift card along with the chance of being in future communications!

College students:

  • Give back to your school! The university that purchases the most BTS products could win the chance of getting $15,000 donated for scholarships [or]
  • Enter a social media contest to choose why your school deserves to have a day where your brand takes over the campus


  • Email and/or direct mail promoting 5% of every purchase will go to a charity of your choice (customer can choose from 1 of 3 charities at purchase)

If you can build a relationship with the younger generation, and continue to market to them as they enter different lifestyle stages, you will be well on your way to keeping them as a best customer.

In true summer reading fashion, here are the main points if you just skipped to the end:

Back to School Campaign Cheat Sheet:

  • Use data to create a unique marketing experience
  • Create a unique acquisition strategy to keep them as a year-round customer
  • Keep geographic location in mind when launching
  • Market based on lifecycle stage
  • Keep it fun!

Speaking of fun, here is one of my favorite back to school initiatives when I was growing up.