For many people, the back-to-school season brings up a lot of nostalgia. The satisfaction of a crisp new notebook, the excitement and anxiety of starting new classes, the thrill of pulling on a perfect pair of jeans.
For businesses, back-to-school time requires a great deal of work. It is the second busiest shopping season of the year, so there are sales to plan, social media campaigns to launch, and PPC ads to track. At a time when every other brand is slashing prices, it can be difficult to gain traction.
Many shoppers look forward to the great deals back to school season brings all year, so now is the time to start getting ready.
What about creating a campaign that really stands out and gets your brand noticed? Instead of standard back to school sales on clothing and lunch boxes, let’s look at some less-common strategies that will help your brand stand out.
Host a Real, Live Event
One way to stand out is to actually stand next to your prospective customers. This strategy is particularly successful for brands who tend to do most of their interaction online. Seeing your prospective customers in person lets them put a face to your brand, which can be extremely powerful.
Consider hosting an event at a local coffee shop or even a favorite campus bookstore. Set up a table or display with information about what your brand does and how you do it differently. Play music, do giveaways if it makes sense for your brand. Then give out swag and discounts directly to your potential customers to help entice them to make a purchase.
Keep in mind that a huge portion of back-to-school shopping is done by college students, so campus books stores or even quick-eat places near college campuses are great places to hold an event. Make it fun and give out swag that your students will actually use, such as water bottles, pens, USBs, phone card holders, etc.
Sponsor a Local School or Community Sports Team
If you ever played kickball in college or little league as a kid, you likely ran around with a brand logo on your uniform. Sponsoring a community or school sports team is an unconventional way for your brand to support youth sports, show your dedication to the community, and get your brand in front of people who may not normally be exposed to it.
Sponsorship costs can vary, from a few hundred dollars to $3000 or more, depending on the type of sport and what a sponsorship package. The most common inclusion is adding your logo to team uniforms, but your logo may also be added to programs, field signs, and other locations. You might even get brand mentions on radio or online.
As an added bonus, some sports teams are non-profits, making your sponsorship costs tax deductible.
Host a Giveaway With Creative Prizes
When we are given something for free, we feel an inherent obligation to repay that gift. That is why giveaways can be such useful marketing techniques. Giveaways can also be a colossal waste of money, so it is essential to tread carefully.
To be effective, make sure your giveaway ties back to your business in some way. If you are using a giveaway to increase your email list, make sure you are gathering qualified contacts. Additionally, use the winner as inspiration for social posts. Consider adding a photo or video of their reaction to winning or post a photo of the winner with their prize. These types of posts often get a lot of engagement, which increases your brand reach.
Here are a few creative giveaway ideas:
- Movie pack with a DVD of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, popcorn, and candy
- Gift cards to a popular takeout restaurant to help ease the stress of back to school
- A survival kit of your best-loved items that back-to-school students would love
- Tickets to fall events like apple picking, hay rides, or fall festivals
- A tailgating package with items like sports gear, portable tables, and games
- Shopping spree at local clothing or electronics store
- Daily or yearly pass to a local art or children’s museum
If handled well, a giveaway can be a cost-effective way to create brand loyalty.
Give Back to Your Community
Supporting a local cause or non-profit organization is another way to stand out in the crowded back-to-school marketing frenzy. In addition to that warm fuzzy feeling you get from doing good, there are tangible business benefits, as well.
Working with a community group or charity can increase your brand exposure through links from their website, blog posts, articles in the newspaper, and even radio or television mentions. If you are working with a 501(c)(3) non-profit, your donation is likely tax-deductible. Also, customers will enjoy feeling good about themselves when they shop with you.
There are a few ways to support local causes this back-to-school season. For example, you could offer a discount in exchange for donations for a local cause, like a school supply drive for a local school or a food drive for a local food pantry. Or donate a portion of sales of a certain item or on a certain day to support a local charity or non-profit.
Giving back to your community isn’t just good for the soul, it is good for business, too.
Make a Video
Today’s teens spend more time on their mobile devices than ever before. While it is difficult to nail down an exact number of hours, some surveys say teens spend up to nine hours a day on their mobile devices. What are they doing during that time? They are watching videos, messaging, and listening to music. In fact, 71% of teens say they watch videos online.
If you are ready to give video a try, you don’t need to invest a lot of money. Consider creating a stop-animation video, going live to review a popular product, or interviewing an industry mini-celebrity. You could also partner with teen influencers and ask them to do videos.
Here are a few more video ideas:
- Announce a new product or special sale via video
- Create a how-to video related to your product
- Ask happy customers to create video testimonials for your brand
- Host a live Q&A session on Facebook where you answer customer’s questions live
- Record a video detailing a unique way to use your product
Remember, creating a video doesn’t mean you need to spend thousands of dollars on equipment. Today’s teens value authenticity, so a smartphone and great lighting will do the trick.
Don’t Forget The Teachers
In many communities, teachers are the unsung heroes of the school system. They are often underpaid, understaffed, and have limited resources at their disposal. Many teachers spend hundreds of dollars of their own money to buy supplies for their classrooms. Giving back to teachers is a way to both do good in your community and stand out in the back-to-school marketing madness.
This could be as simple as offering teachers a discount off all school supplies. You could also do a raffle for a ‘survival package’ of popular items for teachers. If you are able to do more, consider giving one teacher a shopping spree.
Whatever back-to-school campaign you choose, focus on tying your back-to-school campaign into making your customer’s lives easier and growing your community. Your customers will appreciate the focus on something other than your business and brand loyalty will increase as a result.