Remember how excited you used to get at the prospect of a brand-new backpack or trapper keeper? Last year, back-to-school spending was one of the largest events by average expected per capita spend in the US, just behind back-to-college spending. It’s likely to be just as high this year and the next.
While some of the old standard back-to-school supplies will never change, there’s a whole new market of products children now need to succeed in school. Technology is more prevalent than ever before. Around 94% of public schools reported providing digital devices, such as laptops and tablets, for the 2022-2023 year.
So what else has changed? With the advent of streaming media, it’s harder than ever to market products to the new generations, no matter how essential they might be to their school year. However, some brands have already tapped into influencer marketing to get the word out.
The history of back-to-school marketing
According to Hagley, back-to-school marketing can be traced all the way back to “back-to-school sales” by Montgomery Ward, an early mail-order company in the United States. With the advent of television, it wasn’t long before back-to-school ads were playing every August before school began in September.
Today, back-to-school marketing is in a whole new era. A study in 2013 showed that 72% of children ages 8 and under were using mobile devices to play games, watch videos, or use apps–up 38% more than in 2012. According to a Pew survey, nearly all teens in 2022 had access to a smartphone. And TikTok and YouTube have rocketed in popularity.
To reach new audiences of younger generations, marketers need to try new avenues and approaches, such as influencer marketing, to reach the eyes and ears of students whose main form of entertainment and communication is social media.
The demographics of back-to-school marketing
Kids in school today are split between Gen Z (zoomers) and Generation Alpha (Gen A). The latest generation of Gen Z students (born close to 2009) and the earliest of the Gen A students (born between 2010 and 2018) make up the grade school to high school demographic. However, as close as they are in age, there are some distinct differences.
Generation Alpha spent several of their formative years during a global pandemic. Some of them weren’t able to set foot in a classroom before COVID-19 hit. This generation was raised on streaming technology within their family homes, and one of their top concerns is not seeing their family enough after school resumes.
What’s more, while Millennials and Gen Z are more eco conscious and inclusive than previous generations, Gen Alpha is likely to be the next step in concern for climate change, inclusivity, and social advocacy. According to eMarketer, Gen Alpha will be more diverse than the rest of the US population, meaning they will expect to see themselves in media and marketing.
How influencer marketing works for back-to-school marketing campaigns
Influencer marketing is the most effective way for brands to get their back-to-school marketing campaigns up and running. This type of marketing done right relies on first-hand testimonials from content creators who know and love your product. It’s authentic, and it allows your brand to reach niche audiences depending on the age demographic your product most appeals to.
For example, let’s say you’re a brand who makes backpacks. You find a content creator whose style and content match your brand’s. You send that creator a free backpack. That creator then tries the backpack, loves it, and creates a review on TikTok, including an affiliate link in their bio. Their followers will then see the backpack, listen to the feedback from their favorite content creator, and will want to buy your product.
If you’ve never dipped into the world of influencer marketing before, we have a complete guide to get you started from the ground up.
What kind of influencers work best for back-to-school campaigns?
The best kind of influencers for back-to-school marketing depend on your target audience. If you make clothes for younger kids just getting into kindergarten, your content creators should match the tone and style of your brand, and they should likely be parents with young kids.
For example, YouTube stars Austin McBroom and Catherine Paiz have a young child named Elle who has her own Instagram. Other 7-year-old kids who follow her on Instagram might see a post her mother makes of a specific outfit or toy.
Alternatively, if you’re a video game company who wants to target teens ages 16-19, you might want to look into younger Twitch streamers interested in your game. For example, Ewok, a 17-year-old gaming pro, streams games on YouTube and Twitch, and has a strong presence on Instagram.
6 top tips for back-to-school marketing campaigns with influencers
1. Get an early start.
Most marketers will start planning for back-to-school campaigns months before August, so it’s never too early to start looking for and contacting content creators about collaboration. You can use this extra time to strategically plan your campaigns, be creative with your influencers, and make a content calendar to avoid rushing in August.
2. Remember economic uncertainty.
Everyone is under the constant shadow of an impending recession. According to the New York Fed, there’s a 68.2% chance the US might see a recession in the next year. Where possible, offer discounts and specials in your influencer marketing campaigns that might save parents some money while still keeping sales high.
3. In-person learning is officially back.
Most, if not all, schools are transitioning back to in-person learning instead of remote teaching, which means fashion is more likely to be a high priority to kids. They will also be needing school supplies such as backpacks, notebooks, writing utensils, and items for extracurriculars.
4. Invest in omnichannel shopping.
Shoppers are using multiple channels to make purchases, including on social media. It’s essential to have content on several social media platforms, desktop, mobile, and even in-person ads. If a kid sees one of your ads on Instagram and shows it to their mom, the mom might see it again in an ad while browsing Pinterest, and click and buy it.
5. Keep supply chain disruptions in mind.
While the worst of the pandemic supply chain disruptions has ended, brands still feel the reverberations of COVID-19. Make sure the products you want to market will be in stock by the time August rolls around, or you might have a lot of unhappy customers.
6. Keep up with trends.
A good influencer marketing manager will keep up to date with the latest social media trends. However, it can be hard to do that while managing a full-time schedule of various marketing campaigns. Touch base with your content creators to get a sense of what they think a good trend might be to target this season.
Key takeaway: embrace content creators in your back-to-school marketing campaigns this year
Back-to-school marketing has evolved significantly over the last few decades, especially with the rise of technology and the growth of younger generations like Gen Z and Gen Alpha entering education. Influencer marketing is one of the best and most powerful tools for reaching these audiences and their parents, allowing brands to connect to niche markets and leverage the authentic brand love of content creators.