Seize the School Year: Digging into the Psyche of Back-to-School Marketing

Back-to-school shopping may not be your favorite time of the year. The clothes, the school supplies; you name it, your child needs it.

Great advertising and marketing campaigns are created from a variety of techniques: incentives, seasonality, a personal touch to the ‘why now?’ among other creative and unique ideas.

For instance, Target, a titan in the big-box store battle, is an innovator in its back-to-school marketing.  This includes the launch of a robust ad campaign (print weeklies, charming social media deals and videos, and fun 30-second commercials), incentives provided by its newer app, Cartwheel, and the in-store experience, especially. All the back-to-school goodies are perfectly packaged in the back of the store, waiting for you to seize the unnecessary deals, “25 pens for $5!” or “Buy seven binders, get four free!”

Oddly enough, good marketing is about the experience of going back to school or even, starting your college career. Adweek profiled global media agency UM and Chegg’s effort to help brands better understand how to get with the target audience they so badly desire: 18 to 24-year-olds.


Findings from that study showed that 18 to 24-year-olds will spend $163 billion on non-essential items this year. They also found that the back-to-school season isn’t the only time to make an impact with college students. There are other key milestones and times when brands connect.

Take starting college – you may go along with your new college student to pick up dorm room bedding and accessories at Bed Bath & Beyond or buy Tide detergent for their first time doing laundry on their own. The marketing puzzle piece just fits. Moments like these just ‘happen’.

UM and Chegg built out a pathway of “memorable college moments” and the brands who should be capitalizing on these milestones.

School is back in session. Your child is going to take their neatly-sorted school supplies and zip them up in their new JanSport backpack. They’re going to lace up the latest Converse sneakers and break in their fresh pair of jeans. And when the bus comes, they’ll catch your eye and say good-bye. They will begin a new school year and cement another milestone.

…I’m guessing Canon or Nikon will benefit from that one.