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A Look At The Best Back-To-School Marketing Campaigns Of 2019

August 19, 2019 Carolyn Harding

It seems just as the school year begins to wrap up, more and more brands are already deep into the planning for their online, mobile and traditional back-to-school (BTS) campaigns. And rightfully so, as the early start to BTS season is now a major trend, with shoppers running to online and brick-and-mortar stores sooner – and more strategically – than ever before.

The typical BTS season spans from June to August, with the main days of focus being Prime Day, the first weekend in August and Labor Day weekend (in 2018, Labor Day was the #1 day overall for BTS shopping searches). Brands have undoubtedly taken notice of the BTS shopping craze. According to a recent study from RetailMeNot, 93% of retailers admitted their company can do a better job leveraging mobile advertisements to drive in-store traffic, and 74% of retailers stated they planned to invest more in their BTS marketing this year. Simultaneously, more than three in five parents expected to start BTS shopping in July or even earlier.

In addition to marketers noticing the need for BTS ads sooner than later, they’ve also tapped into the importance of digital marketing, especially as consumers continue to rely on mobile devices to find the best prices and deals. Mobile BTS shopping is expected to grow by 60% in 2019, and a new study from Deloitte found that almost half of all mobile shoppers said they'll use their devices to make a purchase this year.

As a whole, total planned BTS spend in the U.S. amounted to roughly $26.2 billion in 2019, with shoppers planning to spend an average of $507 each during the season. In honor of the impressive growth and creative digital marketing surrounding the BTS season, here are the top five BTS campaigns we’ve seen so far this year.

Macy’s: All Brand New

Macy's was quick to hop on the social marketing bandwagon with their BTS promotion this year. Titled “All Brand New,” the retail store’s BTS campaign features its first ever shoppable commercials on Snapchat, along with a fun video-sharing challenge on TikTok.

Becoming the exclusive sponsor of Snapchat’s series, "The Dead Girls Detective Agency," mentions of the Macy's brand and strategic product placements will be featured within series episodes. A "swipe up to shop" activation will also be displayed, allowing mobile viewers to shop the retailer’s BTS offerings. With Macy's "All Brand New Challenge" for TikTok, on the other hand, mobile users are encouraged to record videos featuring Macy’s BTS looks and influence others to share their styles for the upcoming school year.

By giving viewers of Snapchat's "The Dead Girls Detective Agency" the option to shop directly in the app, Macy’s has created an opportunity to generate direct sales from Snapchat users. Through the TikTok "All Brand New Challenge," Macy’s introduces the possibility of going viral, as TikTok’s popularity has continued to grow, and users are actively urging others to respond to videos with their own creations, therefore generating even more buzz around the Macy’s brand.

Amazon: Countdown To School Year

Amazon Prime Day has quickly become the official kickoff to the BTS shopping season. Now in its fifth year, 84% of retailers say Prime week is the most important time for driving online sales during the entire BTS season. In 2019, more than 300 retailers actively competed with Amazon on Prime Day. So, it’s only right Amazon has a standout campaign to coincide with one of the busiest times of year for brands.

In a New Year’s Eve inspired campaign, Amazon counts down to the 2019 school year in a playful new commercial showing kids getting ready for their first days of school. The ad strategically places the Amazon brand logo, along with several of the products offered on its site, and claims it has the widest selection of school supplies every kid will need to start the 2019 school year off right.

Staples: Back To School And Beyond

Staples took the heartfelt approach to this year’s BTS season. Introducing not one, but two new campaigns, the office retail company focused on kids’ journeys to finding their potential career paths through the lessons and classes they take in school. Introducing “the writer” and “the architect,” both ads reflect the positive influence teachers and parents have on a child’s journey.

Staples’ digital BTS campaign comes on the heels of the retailers recent announcement, stating it is attempting to shift sales from stores to the online channel and hopes to reduce brick-and-mortar sales from 40% to 20% by 2020.

H-E-B: Back To School Curbside Pickup

While many retailers use the BTS season to promote a wide variety of products, the privately held supermarket chain, H-E-B, took the BTS timeframe as an opportunity to spotlight a single offering: curbside pickup. In an entertaining role reversal skit of child-becoms-parent, H-E-B’s ad promotes its online site, highlighting several of the BTS necessities that are offered online, and specifically calling out the benefits of utilizing the store’s curbside pickup option when shopping.

H-E-B’s curbside pickup plays into the ongoing need for convenience, a factor marketers are seeing more and more of with shoppers. Today’s consumers know what they want, and they want it now. By promoting an efficient ordering process and easy pick up, the supermarket chain is showcasing its prompt customer service and its understanding of consumer habits in an effort to win over new buyers.

Walmart: Big Day Back

Walmart took the phrase “go back big” quite literally in their most recent BTS campaign, creating a world in which kids are giant versions of themselves, all headed back to their first days of school with confidence. The ad showcases everything kids need for their big days back, all available at Walmart, of course.

Creative digital campaigns like this year’s “Big Day Back” creation are a result of Walmart’s recent increase in ad spend. In its fiscal year ending in January 2019, the company invested more than $3 billion, the highest for the brand in five years. The hefty ad spend was an increase of $400 million compared to what the company spent in 2018.

Through each of these eye-catching campaigns circulating the web, brands are strategically showcasing popular BTS items, specifically geared toward online and mobile shoppers. Thanks to the increase in online ads, marketers are also able to provide customers with real-time updates on the stock of these popular items. The best part? It’s only August, which means there are many more ads to come. In the meantime, we’ll be here anxiously awaiting the next wave of creative BTS inspiration!

Looking for more back-to-school campaign inspiration? Check out last year’s best back-to-school campaigns.

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About the Author

Carolyn Harding

Carolyn Harding is an Associate Manager of Communications at Digital Media Solutions (DMS), the fastest-growing independent digital performance marketing company. DMS helps its clients accelerate growth by deploying diversified and data-driven customer acquisition solutions that deliver scalable, sustainable and measurable marketing results. DMS performance marketing solutions connect the right consumers with the right offers at the right time to achieve the marketing objectives of our clients. DMS is continually innovating to provide new and emerging media and technology solutions that minimize waste and maximize results across the most competitive industries. Since its inception, DMS has demonstrated incredible year-over-year growth which has earned recognition on the Inc. 5000 list in 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

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