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5 Brands with the Best Back to School Marketing Campaigns

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For many businesses, the back to school season holds plenty of opportunities for major marketing opportunities. Various components of marketing campaigns from interesting social media posts, to valuable website content or interesting videos can all help to drive traffic to websites, increase conversions, and generate brand awareness.

As we start to make our way through the month of September, we’re inundated with promotional back to school marketing, and as users, some of these campaigns resonate better than others. Whether it is a catchy slogan or financial incentive that encourages audiences to engage with a brand, typically there are always companies whose digital marketing efforts we favor this time of year. Here are some of our favorite campaigns promoting the start of another school year:

Poppin

When you think of “back to school,” the number one thing that comes to mind is shopping for school supplies. Poppin is an office and stationary supply company that caters to the more mature needs of adults, from high school, to college and beyond.

While most of their email marketing campaigns focus on stocking up the office, their recent messages have had a stronger emphasis on providing high school, college, and grad school students with the supplies they need by offering a variety of discounts right around Labor Day weekend as they get ready to head back to school. Their imagery immediately catches the eye of the recipient by showcasing their brightly colored products. They have also incorporated a gif into their main message, allowing them to display double the amount of products than they would have in a stagnant image.

This is a unique and interesting way to make the most of your email marketing real estate as you move forward with designing your campaigns. A gif can let you present readers with twice as much information in the same amount of space, while entertaining and engaging them along the way.

It is always refreshing to see brands incorporate new techniques to make their email marketing campaigns stand out in the inboxes of their customers. Poppin has leveraged the gif to showcase more of their product offerings, while targeting a specific group within their overall target market, making it a great place to stock up for school.

NFL Sunday Ticket

Going back to school unfortunately means that the summer season has come to an end. However, it means fall is just beginning, and with the fall comes another beloved season: football season. Whether it is the NFL or college football, it is a sport that is impossible to avoid this time of year. Love it or hate it, you will be seeing a lot of marketing surrounding it for the next five months.

NFL Sunday Ticket took a unique approach to their back to school marketing campaign this year. They broadcasted a series of short ad spots that were scattered throughout the “Back to College” sponsored Snapchat story. They used these ads as a way to market their exclusive student pricing for individuals looking to stream live out-of-market NFL games every Sunday afternoon throughout the season.

back to school marketing
This campaign allowed them to target NFL football fans on a student budget by playing into the financial concerns of average college students. Each ad compared the competitive cost of NFL Sunday Ticket to the costs of average student purchases such as textbooks, food, and other useless subscriptions. Knowing that mostly college students would be watching the “Back to College” Snapchat story, this was an ideal opportunity for them to advertise that specific pricing option.

We are continuously seeing more and more brands embrace the advertising capabilities that are available now with Snapchat. By creating a campaign that is tailored for that specific platform, with short and entertaining content that is still relevant and informative, you can reach your potential customers in a way that naturally fits in with the back to school (and football) season.

Macy's

Back to school shopping is not just about the school supplies, it’s about the clothes too! It is a tradition that many retailers leverage when creating their back to school campaigns. This year Macy’s utilized Twitter for a variety of different “back to school shopping” themed carousel ads. Where they use 4 to 5 individual tweets and images to comprise one ad that audiences can scroll through when it shows up on their feed.

For one ad specifically, they leveraged some young female celebrities and social media influencers to help advertise their clothing styles inspired by the 90’s. They encouraged followers to “throwback to school” with them by inviting them to meetups at various Macy’s locations so that their fans could go back to school shopping with them. All of the ads feature these individuals wearing outfits with 90’s-themed pieces, and used the hashtag #throwbacktoschool.

back to school marketing
This play on words is easy enough for audiences to understand, engage with, and then generate their own content based on the same ideas presented in the ads. It not only invites individuals to make their way to actual Macy’s stores, but encourages them to spread the word about the campaign online as well.

TP-Link

TP-Link is the world’s #1 provider of consumer Wi-Fi networking devices. While they mainly focus on at-home and office devices, they recently launched a Twitter ad that targeted college students as they prepared to head back to school. Because if there is anything a college student MUST have before going back to school…its WiFi.

Their Twitter dedicated to their North American market created a unique image that illustrated a “food pyramid” of college student priorities, and invited users to “retweet if their priorities are straight.” Naturally, WiFi was most important, with pizza and a social life close behind that.

back to school marketing
The witty and unique content is easy for audiences to consume and understand which is imperative when advertising on Twitter. Attention spans are short when people are scrolling through their feed, and your content needs to stand out. TP-Link made an ad that accomplished this, while still being engaging and properly targeted towards the college demographic.

Victoria's Secret

In 2010, Victoria’s Secret launched its Collegiate Collection under the PINK branch of the company. It currently offers apparel for 78 schools throughout the United States, and chooses one campus every year to host a PINK party. They leave it up to the students to determine which school wins through their annual Campus Showdown – an online competition that relies on schools voting for themselves to be the campus that comes out on top. Their campaign has an entirely digital foundation, which given their target demographic, is without question the right space to focus on.

back to school marketing
Every year the competition grows, and what started out as a standard voting campaign on their website, has evolved into a bracketed competition (think March madness), to what is now a 5-round tournament taking place entirely through mobile platforms. Victoria’s Secret is combining engagements through their Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter accounts, with the use of their PINK app to determine who will be this year’s champion. Votes and points for the schools increase with each “hashtag” tweeted, and each “like” received on their images. But it really gets interesting with the integration of campus-specific Instagram accounts that are run by the respective “Campus Reps” that determine the winner of the “Gram Finale!”

This is clearly an aggressively omnichannel digital campaign in which PINK has employed all of their outlets in order to reach a maximum audience. Even though only one school can win, Victoria’s Secret comes out as the true victor with the amount of social engagement they receive during this week-long back to college competition.

Best Back to School Marketing Campaigns 2016

With the back to school season underway, brands everywhere have been leveraging this popular time of year to supports their overall business objective and effectively connect them with their target audiences. Through the evolving landscapes of traditional media, social media, video content, and even design, these brands have taken their creativity to the next level in an effort to reach their users.

What companies do you think had the best back to school marketing campaigns this year? Tell us your favorites in the comments below, or tweet us @BFMweb!

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  1. Jessica Gopalakrishnan said:

    Indeed an impressive set of marketing campaign examples!

    Turnitin.com also does an admirable job on back to school marketing campaigns. Turnitin is an edtech company that helps students learn to write. For Back to School, they work directly with educators to develop assets and tools that will engage students and improve their grades. In 2015 they launched a multi-tiered plagiarism education campaign that included a quiz, lesson plans, a handout and a paper: http://turnitin.com/en_us/back-to-school.

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