Back-to-school: Did your marketing programs make the grade?

Back-to-school season is upon us. Parents are sighing with relief as the weekly routine will soon be back in full swing. And retailers are preparing to benefit from back-to-school spending as consumers check off items their back-to-school lists. The average family with children in grades K-12 plans to spend $630.36 on electronics, apparel and other school needs according to NRF’s Back-to-School Spending Survey.

Back-to-school season presents marketers with an opportunity to engage consumers with multi-promotional campaigns and drive loyalty. As retailers look to make the most of increased consumer spending during this period, they are thinking beyond campaign segments, strategizing to combine promotions and creating experiences for consumers.

For example, Walgreens is running a back-to-school campaign titled “This is their year to rule the school” in which promotional discounts are being offered encouraging consumers to use Walgreen’s photo service to personalize school supplies by inserting pictures into notebooks, water bottles, dorm posters, etc. I love how the Walgreen’s team has engaged in this multi-promotional campaign with their photo center and school supply units. Encouraging customers to personalize their back-to-school supplies makes back-to-school shopping more than checking items off of a list and adds to the back-to-school experience. Being a Walgreens Balance Rewards® loyalty member, I’ve received notifications of these back-to-school type promotions and it helps to remind me that the Walgreens brand is more than just a ‘corner drug store.’

As you’re reflecting on your back-to-school campaigns for the 2015 season, review the school tips noted below to grade your marketing campaign efforts. Did your programs make the grade?

Study:  Understand the consumers you’re marketing to.  Leverage data behavioral insights to learn of their preferences. For example, gaining insight that the Smith family is a household of four, one adult is an elementary teacher and they have two grade school level children is very helpful to marketers. Promotions can then be more relevant as they are targeted to household needs.  Studying to better understand your customers is smart marketing.

Subject:  Content marketing is key. Think of relevant messages and offers that will resonate with your audience. Often times, marketers plan their campaigns by subjects (campaigns focused on specific products/solutions) and keep them as separate promotions. Engaging in multi-promotional efforts truly does drive loyalty to your brand. Consumers like things simplified, options that are going to save them time. If a consumer knows she’s able to pick up her printed photos, son’s prescription, milk for cereal and needed school supplies in one place, this instantly signals ‘cost savings’ in terms of her time. Walgreen’s back-to-school campaign is a great example of this.

Art & Science:  Remember, marketing is both an art and science. Think of out-of-the box marketing strategies that you can apply to your back-to-school programs. Get creative. Consider developing a back-to-school identity for your promotional efforts. For example, since 2012 Mead Five Star has played off the ‘dog ate my homework’ cliché with its Cinco vs. Five Star campaign.“In the ads, Cinco is featured in a number of situations as he attempts but fails to destroy Five Star’s notebooks and binders. The spots end with the tagline ‘Built strong to last long,’ promoting the durability of the brand’s products,” according to an article in the Drum.

Integrating a multi-channel campaign will allow your back-to-school identity to stand out reminding consumers of the value of your brand and products while differentiating what sets you apart.

At the end of the day, driving loyalty during the busiest of shopping seasons can be achieved. Simplifying offers by streamlining promotions, creating unique experiences to attract customers and focusing on understanding your customers are keys to success.

To continue reading about the back-to-school shopping season, check out my colleague’s article: Smart Marketing Drives Loyalty with the Back-to-School Frenzy.