Targeting students for Back to School campaigns: Online, social, and mobile tips

Without argument, it is general knowledge that the Christmas season is a time of giving and receiving – even for marketers. Marketing campaigns are “given” to entice shoppers into buying, while companies “receive” a colossal spike in sales. What’s less obvious is the year’s second biggest shopping season – back to school.

Back to school is the second biggest shopping season every year, with sales reaching almost $69 billion last year – the average person spent about $603 on back-to-school supplies, apparel and clothing in 2011 according to NRF. Back-to-school is the time where product lines in various industries are renewed. New electronics are launched; the latest “fall-friendly” clothing lines are stocked; and stationery companies launch new lines of pens and pencils while discounting their older products. After all, there’s a reason why historically, every iPhone (except the iPhone 4S) has launched in either June or July. The Samsung Galaxy S series, its direct competitor, has had similarly timed launch dates as well.

Back to school is important because it gives students a chance to “renew” their image for the upcoming school year. A chance to be someone new, start fresh with new peers, and have the latest products to show their friends. Is your company launching products during the back to school season? As a marketer, are you renewing your campaigns to reflect your company’s latest innovations?

We’re going to explore three mediums, namely website, social, and mobile and provide tactical tips on what you can do to drive sales and boost brand image among students.


  • Update your website’s carousel or image slider to reflect your back to school deals and promotions. Use “low price” deals to entice users to click on the slider.
Targeting Students Best Buy website
  • Use Remarketing campaigns to target college students by offering special student pricing. If the visitor wants to “unlock special student prices”, they just need to provide their post-secondary email address (creates exclusivity). This way, even if they don’t make a purchase, you can track what products they are looking at using a lead management program and use remarketing campaigns to advertise to them via email. Over timUse eye-catching image overlayse, you can also email them weekly newsletters showing your latest products and specials.
  •  New vs. old product message: For new products, emphasize the benefits. For older products being liquidated, emphasize the discounted price.
  • Use eye-catching image overlays to indicate items that have special
    attributes to them. Overlays can be created
    manually using most image editing programs or batch processed using awatermarking tool.
  • Make sure your PPC campaigns are product focused. Students are brand conscious, and will most likely search by brand or product. Avoid using generic ad titles like “Back to School Specials”. Instead, create various product-focused titles that mention the brand or the product. Consider using Google Offers to collect email addresses and send promotions, as shown below.

PPC campaigns


  • Design your Facebook page to reflect your website’s design. This will make the transition from website to Facebook page (and vice versa) a more fluid experience.
  • Change your Facebook banner to reflect back to school visuals

    Facebook Banner

    Facebook Banner

  • Ask your young product users to shoot a video where they talk about their favourite products and send it to you. Students are easily influenced by opinion leaders, which should help drive the sales of trends. In certain cases, you might require the consent of their parent or guardian depending on their age.
  • Create fun Facebook comparison posts featuring a photo of 2 of your products side-by-side and ask fans, “Which one would you rather have?” As they share their opinion, the post will go viral.
  • Run a Twitter contest, encouraging fans to retweet one of your tweets. Offer an incentive such as a prize or a gift card to one lucky winner.
  • Engage fans on Pinterest using cool and artistic images. Fashion brands especially can take advantage of Pinterest to increase their following and spread awareness. Link the pinned images to their appropriate page on your website so your followers can get more information about the product.
  • Run a pinning contest encouraging pinners to pin your image and reward a lucky pinner with a prize or a gift card. As more people pin your image, your website gets more traffic since the product link is embedded in the pin.


  • Understand your mobile user’s needs. What are they doing when they are accessing your website (shopping, commuting, studying, etc.) and what features they need at that exact moment. Develop your mobile website’s features according to their needs.
  • Optimize your website for touch devices. With the decline of Blackberry OS, your mobile website is going to experience an increase in traffic from Apple and Android devices. Make your buttons bigger so they are easily clickable and readable.
  • Avoid using Flash on your mobile website since Apple devices still don’t support it.
  • Text messaging is still one of the most used means of communication among students.Integrate opt-in text messaging campaigns into your marketing mix to deliver deals, promotions, and “secret sales” on demand.

Throughout the whole process, it is also important to remember that grade school students don’t have credit cards. In those cases, you might have to alter your marketing message a bit to show parents how your product can benefit their kids.

While students might have shorter attention spans due to the large number of brands trying to capture their attention, they are also known to be influencers in their social circles. They can be highly opinionated about brands whether in person or through social media. Understand your audience. What do they do in their free time? What websites do they visit? Facebook has a minimum age restriction of 13. Are they old enough for Facebook? After performing your research, leverage the right message and medium to capture your audience and turn them into brand loyal fans.