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Back-to-School Marketing: Then and Now

Back-to-School Marketing: Then and Now As the days grow shorter and the hint of autumn fills the air, it's that time of the year again – back-to-school season. For both students and marketers, this season marks a significant shift in priorities. As the education landscape evolves, so does the art of back-to-school marketing. In this blog post, we're diving into the fascinating world of back-to-school advertising, exploring how it has transformed over the years, and pointing out some remarkable examples that have left an indelible mark on the industry.

Then: In the past, back-to-school marketing was relatively straightforward. Brands would focus on showcasing their products – from notebooks to backpacks – through catalogs, flyers, and print advertisements. The approach was functional and pragmatic, targeting parents' desire to equip their children for the upcoming school year.

Now: With the rise of digital media and the changing consumer landscape, back-to-school marketing has undergone a dramatic transformation. It's no longer just about the products; it's about creating an emotional connection. Marketers tap into the aspirations of students and parents alike, crafting narratives that revolve around success, self-expression, and individuality. Social media, influencer partnerships, and immersive experiences have taken center stage, enabling brands to engage with their audience on a more personal level.

Noteworthy Back-to-School Marketing Campaigns Over the Years

1. Staples "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" (1990s - Present): Staples' iconic commercial, set to the tune of the Christmas classic, captures the exuberance of parents shopping for school supplies. The campaign's longevity speaks to its resonance, humorously celebrating parents' eagerness to send their kids back to school.

2. Apple "Think Different" (1997): While not explicitly a back-to-school campaign, Apple's "Think Different" ad campaign perfectly aligns with the values of education and individuality. The campaign featured influential figures from various fields, inspiring students to embrace their uniqueness and challenge the status quo.

3. Target's "Bullseye's Playground" (2010s - Present): Target's approach to back-to-school marketing goes beyond the traditional. Their "Bullseye's Playground" commercials highlight stylish and affordable school supplies, creating a sense of excitement and discovery akin to exploring a playground.

4. Old Navy's "Jump In" (2020): In a year marked by uncertainty due to the pandemic, Old Navy's "Jump In" campaign took a different approach. It focused on resilience and adaptability, showing kids preparing for a unique school year – be it in-person, remote, or a combination of both.

5. Nike's "You Can't Stop Us" (2020): Nike's inspirational campaign celebrates the power of sports and determination. Though not strictly about back-to-school, its message of overcoming obstacles and pushing boundaries resonates with students stepping into new academic challenges.

The Shifting Landscape of Back-to-School Marketing As technology advances and societal values evolve, so does the realm of marketing. Back-to-school campaigns have expanded from merely promoting products to cultivating a sense of identity and aspiration. Brands today must consider inclusivity, sustainability, and authenticity in their messaging to connect with the modern audience.

Back-to-school marketing has come a long way from traditional print ads to dynamic, emotionally charged campaigns that capture the essence of the season. The journey through time highlights the evolution of marketing strategies and the changing needs of students, parents, and educators. As we gear up for another back-to-school season, marketers have a valuable opportunity to create meaningful connections and leave a lasting impact on their target audience, shaping the narrative of the new school year and beyond.

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