Back-to-School brings in around $70 billion in sales each year, second to only Holiday in terms of seasonal sales. For many brands, this represents a vital piece of their overall yearly revenue. $70 billion is not an occasion to miss, or even approach halfheartedly. With that in mind, here are 3 essential questions you should ask yourself and consider before you dive any deeper into your BTS campaign planning. Answering the following will help ensure you are on your way towards a successful initiative.
What do you want to accomplish and by when? Do you have enough time to execute?
We're getting into crunch time with the back-to-school season quickly approaching. If you're not already working on your back-to-school strategy, you're probably going to miss out. A key question to address when laying out the foundation for any campaign is- do you have the correct amount of time needed to properly deploy your campaign? Timing should be paramount when planning because being short on time can affect the campaign execution, while launching too early could catch consumers in the wrong mind frame (still summer loving)- and therefore fail to strike when the iron is hot. It sounds simple, but having an accurate and achievable timeline is one of the most crucial components of campaign planning. Particularly when the campaign you are launching is dependent on seasonal timing.
Have you utilized industry learnings to inform and optimize your campaign?
Learning from previous campaigns before moving forward with your own plan can help inform your campaign strategy. To help catch you up to speed, here are a few Back-to-School best-in-class examples that are definitely worth a second look. You will find that the most successful campaigns typically involve highlighting a product, offering a stand-out deal, or even pledging that sales will benefit a good cause.
- Product features: When catchy creative campaigns catch fire, students typically fall victim to the popular following and can't resist the urge to get in on it too. See: Microsoft, Microsoft vs. Mini Fridge
- Hard to beat offers: The campaigns offering students legitimate deals leave customers walking away feeling valued, and that the company simply wanted to better their lives by offering such a great promotion. Such experiences will entice students to buy again or consider the brand for future purchases. See: Apple's $100 Back to School Gift Card
- Profit for Non-Profit: The ability to do good instead of just making a regular purchase is something that stands out in any consumer's mind. Substantial interactions that accomplish two tasks for the price of one is an experience to remember, offering consumers with a positive brand association for back-to-school (and years) to come. See (AMP's work): Staples for Students
Does your plan include a post-campaign strategy that continues conversations?
Many marketers make the mistake of approaching Back-to-School as a one-off campaign, which is thinking that can only lead to missed opportunities. BTS might be a once-a-year execution, but the customers you create during that time are still yours for the remainder of the year, not to mention years to come. Therefore, it is valuable to have a long-term plan in place for speaking to these same consumers at different points throughout the year. The solution is to approach your BTS campaign as a platform for generating a conversation with your target audience, and then utilizing that platform as a means for obtaining and collecting meaningful information from your consumers that will be used in post-BTS initiatives. Social channels are the perfect tool for initiating and maintaining this relationship with consumers.
A nice campaign to reference in terms of generating a relationship with their consumers is American Eagle's 2012 'Live Your Life'? campaign.
American Eagle asked consumers to share their individual style by submitting photos of themselves wearing their new back-to-school AE jeans. Fans and followers were asked to vote for their favorites, giving 15 finalists (with the most social votes) the opportunity to appear on the brand's blog, Facebook page and YouTube channel. In the end, 15 finalists were also to be featured in the American Eagle Spring campaign. Not only did the 'Live Your Life'? campaign reach and communicate with consumers through all social outlets and ask for consumer participation, it also planned for future engagement (goodbye BTS, hello Spring Campaign) and left fans feeling truly valued by the brand (social fans are now brand campaign stars).
This is in no way a definitive list of ways to be successful during the Back to School season, so we would love to hear your thoughts on other best practices that you have seen. Sound off in the comments below.