Back-to-School Marketing: What You Need to Know

Did you know car seats weren’t invented for child safety? When they came on the scene, in the 1930s, they existed to keep kids from roaming the car and getting under their parents’ feet. As the years went by, the devices got taller to help them see out the window. It wasn’t until the sixties when their safety features finally moved front of mind. Even still, it wasn’t until 1985 that all U.S. states moved to require use of car seats to keep kids safe, though two years passed and only 80% of kids had them. Now, two decades later, it’s a non-negotiable for parents, who also ensure kids don’t venture too far while playing and always wear a helmet while biking. Yet, as parents become more attuned to child safety, there’s one area where they have increasingly allowed kids to have their say. And that is when making purchases.

New data reveals more than three out of four kids influence family purchases. And, when involving kids, parents spend a whopping 60% more, with 73% buying the kid-requested products. Knowing the control Gen Z has on the family purse strings, are your back to school marketing efforts aimed in the right direction?

School just let out for summer fun in the U.S. And soon, kids in the U.K. will enjoy the same. Yet, none will be out too long, making now the time to make and execute plans to reach the right audience.

The Right Audience for Back to School Marketing

Forbes reports Gen Z will grow to be the largest generation of consumers by 2020. Yet, they already account for $143 billion in direct spending, which makes their affection a critical target by brands. That’s because, as the data concludes, “as much as parents want to teach their children life skills, they also want to make them feel respected.” This is why these young consumers serve as “information-gatherers” when it comes to purchases.

Another Forbes article attributes parents’ abilities to trust their recommendations due to Gen Z being informed and having “mastered the balance between new and novel and crowd-sourced and validated.” Yet, they don’t make their decisions in a bubble. They, like their parents, seek out products and brands that will unite the family. Spending time as a family is the primary emotional driver of buying decisions for parents and kids. And, this gives physical retailers unique opportunities to create an experience for the family to result in purchases.

Like Millennials, Gen Z – 77% of them – prefers to buy products in brick-and-mortar stores. And, despite all the closings at the year’s start, Kiplinger says monthly in-store sales “are climbing higher than last year.” But, online retailers and manufacturers don’t have to be excluded when they execute experiential marketing as part of back to school marketing.

This can also be the answer in the U.K., where it’s reported brands have a hard time connecting with Gen Z, who are less receptive to all media than their peers worldwide. A U.K. research group urges brands to take Gen Z very seriously due to big differences from older generations. They need innovative marketing that makes sense – a good rule for brands in any country.

The Right Approach to Back to School Marketing 

According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s total back to school spending in the U.S. was projected to reach $83.6 billion – a 10% increase over 2016. And, predictions for this year’s retail sales are 3.8 to 4.4% growth over 2017. Event marketers and agencies can capture a piece of this ever-expanding pie when they look to these real-life examples, perfect for back to school marketing.

Get playful.

All people love experiential marketing events for several reasons. And, Target understands in-person’s ability to create and strengthen bonds, which we learned is important for Gen Z and parents. That’s why the retailer, when launching its kid’s clothing line, Cat & Jack, activated a pop-up playground designed for kids of all ages.

For two days, Target’s free events offered various activities for families to enjoy together. These included games of corn hole, exciting rides down a slide and photo opps complete with fun props. A two-story gumball machine awarded prizes such as Target gift cards. And, a tented area offered free nail art, temporary tattoos, and hair styling.

But, not all experiential marketing events have to be this extravagant. Taking an idea or two from the activation as it relates to your brand can offer consumers fun in your pop-up shop or retail location. It’s also great for mall property managers seeking to drive traffic for tenants. For instance, one middle Tennessee mall gives away 500 backpacks to elementary students. This is only after kids and parents have visited specific retailers, which hand out items to go in backpacks. Plus, that same day, the mall, like Target, hosts fun activities, such as face painting, mini golf and meet and greets, among others, to draw a variety of shoppers.

Let them try something new.

An Event Track report says 48% of consumers feel an in-store event or experience is improved when brands let them try something new. This is what Microsoft set out to do for non-gaming kids and their moms with its Kinect Experience Tour. To help them feel comfortable, the agency set up a mobile unit outfitted to be a kid-friendly living room. Inside, kids could try age-appropriate games by themselves on the Xbox and even challenge their moms on multi-player games. So, this activation not only offered something new, it used fun to strengthen family bonds.

The idea can apply to a number of situations. Brands can time back to school marketing events around product launches and allow parents and kids to get hands-on together in fun ways. For younger kids, this may be through arts and crafts projects with school supplies. For older kids, unique applications for event technology, such as augmented or virtual reality, also makes a great consumer engagement strategy. Tailoring proven ideas to fit your brand ensures the right approach and the right audience for your back to school marketing.

Now that you have the right back to school marketing strategy, you need the right event staff to execute your campaign and bring Gen Z and their parents in alignment with your brand. Our team of field staff will make all the difference in reaching your marketing goals. 

Author: Kelly Springs-Kelley

Kelly Springs-Kelley is the Marketing Director at Elevate Staffing. When she's not creating content or pondering the future of in-person consumer engagement, Kelly can be found hiking the mountains of Arizona with her 2 kids and 3 dogs.

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