Tuesday, September 13th, 2016 | 6 min read
In the weeks leading up to the school year, brands roll out the social campaigns they’ve spent months on. Considering that total spending on K-12 and college supplies is expected to reach nearly $76 billion this year, it’s no surprise that companies dedicate a lot of time to thinking of ways to make their back-to-school campaigns bigger and better than ever.
So, what does a great campaign look like? Here are just a few examples of back-to-school social efforts that passed with flying colors.
This year Target let kids take charge of its back-to-school marketing campaign. That’s right, kids between the ages of 8-17 created and managed Target’s entire back-to-school campaign—from script writing to illustrating sets, directing, and video production.
Not only did the ad use an original approach, but it also reflected the important role that school plays in helping kids to reach their potential.
The student-driven effort has been a huge success so far, as the 15-second commercial on YouTube has already received more than 1 million views in just over a month.
The attention is no surprise. Target took a familiar trope and shifted it in a fresh and relevant way by making kids not only the centerpiece of the campaign, but also the creators. Back to school ads often feel completely directed at adults, but in this case the campaign took a more holistic—and thus, more engaging—approach.
The Staples For Students campaign (aka #StaplesforStudents) supports education efforts in a couple of important ways. First, it offers two huge incentives to shop at Staples stores for back-to-school supplies: Customers who spend $25 at a Staples store get a chance to win first prize—a trip to meet Katy Perry in LA, or the grand prize—the opportunity to meet Perry and get a $50,000 scholarship.
In addition to partnering with the popstar, Staples teamed up with DonorsChoose.org to generate support for teachers and students. The company has pledged a $1 million donation to DonorsChoose and is leveraging social platforms to encourage others to donate. Last month, for example, Boston residents could trigger $1 donations just by using the Staples For Students Snapchat Geofilter.
Beyond supporting the campaign and spurring user-generated content with the official hashtag, Staples also collaborated with many popular bloggers, or brand influencers, who promoted the effort.
The campaign is a winner not just because of its star power, but also because it directly benefits hardworking teachers across the country who might otherwise struggle to afford all of the necessary classroom materials.
At time when back to school ads can come across as overly consumerist, the Staples campaign shines an important light on the teachers who play such a critical role in the development of children across the country.
— Dallas Moms Blog (@DallasMomsBlog) July 20, 2016
— Leticia Barr (@techsavvymama) August 18, 2016
This year, Best Buy brought the power of comedy to its back-to-school campaign. In a series of short and memorable videos called “How to College with Adam Devine,” the well-known comedian and actor used humor—along with Best Buy products—to navigate the awkward situations, first-time experiences, and other common adventures that all college students face.
This campaign already stands out because it’s funny, but Best Buy took it a step further by creating exclusive emojis—or “Adamojis”— that students can download for free from the App Store, and use in texts and on social media. Devine’s signature expressive face makes the emojis (and the campaign at large) a lot of fun.
It’s a lighthearted effort that strikes the right tone with the slightly older audience that Best Buy targeted. Devine is the perfect celebrity tie-in for college-aged individuals, and the company clearly recognizes that when it comes to reaching today’s social-crazed students, emojis are key.
You may not associate Kleenex tissues with going back to school, but the company’s “Commitment to Care” campaign hits all the right notes.
The video shows real students talking about the feelings they’re contending with as they enter middle school. Kleenex inserts itself into the ad in a tasteful way, as the focus of the piece remains on the kids and their realization that they’re all facing the same fears.
This is the kind of marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing, because the brand hits upon something that we all feel: nervousness about entering a new situation. The campaign may have been timed for back to school, but it resonates on a universal level.
And while the commercials might set off sappiness alarms, their delicate handling of a difficult subject makes the campaign memorable overall.
By combining digital savvy, fresh perspectives, and good old fashioned storytelling, the campaigns above stand out among the crowded back-to-school landscape. No matter what time of year it is, they are strong examples of how brands can reach people across channels in today’s noisy world.