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Brands Pivot Their Back-To-School Marketing Efforts

July 7, 2020 Sarah Cavill

Typically, back-to-school (BTS) shopping is a very important retail season for marketers, brands and retailers. In 2019, more than $26 billion was spent on BTS shopping, which is inclusive of everything from clothes to school-based technology. This year will be different. The ongoing coronavirus crisis could mean that kids don’t go back to school across the country, and the current environment limits the type of marketing strategies that brands may be able to effectively deploy. However, several brands are finding ways to put kids first and create strategic BTS campaigns that resonate with children and parents.

Danimals Pivots Their Back-To-School Approach As More Students Stay Home

danimals adventure campaignWhether or not parents will be packing school lunches in the fall remains unknown, with districts around the country releasing a variety of different plans that could still change. Regardless, kids still need to eat, and Danimals yogurt has launched a multichannel campaign encouraging kids to be adventurous, even if they are stuck at home.

“We had to acknowledge that while families might not be packing lunch boxes, families are looking for delicious, nutritious and convenient options for their kids to enjoy while at home, and they are also looking for ideas to inspire fun and creativity,” said Kallie Goodwin, VP of Family Brands for yogurt at Danone North America. “To respond to this new need, we started sharing ideas for #AtHomeAdventures.”

The #AtHomeAdventures campaign was started earlier in the year, and Danimals recently pivoted the campaign to include ways that kids can experience “adventures outside of the school setting in case learning continues remotely,” including contests and crafts. The Danimals campaign is airing across channels, including Instagram. Danimals will also be announcing an upcoming gaming partnership. 

Jansport Leans Into Corporate Social Responsibility With Mental Health Focused Back To School Campaign

“In the past, we would have had all of our media assets done, baked, in the can and ready to distribute throughout the back-to-school season,” said Monica Rigali, Senior Director of Marketing at JanSport. “Today, we are working on a much shorter timeline. We don’t want to start putting out BTS messages like, ‘It’ll be great getting back in the classroom!’ right now because that would be tone deaf.” 

lighten the load jansportInstead, Jansport launched the Lighten the Load campaign in May, a month earlier than they would normally begin BTS marketing. The Jansport campaign was created to help Gen Z cope with the mental health issues many kids may be dealing with during coronavirus, plus other teen struggles. “As a student-oriented brand, we have an opportunity to align with students. We understand what they are going through and want to help them through it,” said Rigali. The Lighten The Load campaign has so far included live sessions on Instagram and Twitter with licensed therapists, with topics ranging from covid-specific issues like FOMO (fear of missing out) and isolation to recently tackling the mental health concerns of teens in LGBTQ and Black communities. 

2020 BTS Marketing Plans Require Agility

Most brands have yet to share their BTS digital marketing plans at this point, and the National Retail Federation hasn’t released any information about the upcoming BTS season, so it’s likely most brands are taking wait-and-see approaches before finalizing any digital marketing strategies for the 2020 school year. 

Joy Seusing, VP of Global Communications at Bic gives an indication of what brands might be thinking: “It’s all about being as agile and flexible as possible with your plans and pivoting wherever you can,” said Seusing. “A key part of that is working closely with customers and [watching] how they are shopping. We made sure to get those insights in real time so we can come up with the right strategy that will work for [BTS].” Adding that Bic’s marketing strategy will include an emphasis on ecommerce, a plan many brands will likely follow while social distancing and uncertainty about fall plans continues.

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About the Author

Sarah Cavill

With more than 20 years of writing, editing and reporting experience, Sarah Cavill brings to Digital Media Solutions (DMS) a fine-tuned and diverse set of skills. Her work has been featured in notable publications including The Daily Muse, CBS Local, Techlicious and Glamour magazine. Sarah has a passion for current events and the deep-dive research that goes into the content development and brand identity of DMS Insights. In her role as Senior Marketing Communications Writer, Sarah contributes to the pitching, researching and writing of multiple stories published each week surrounding digital and performance marketing innovations in pop culture, news, social media, branding and advertising.

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