Back to school shopping is well underway, although in some parts of the country, the first day of school is over a month away. According to the 2013 National Retail Federation Back-to-School survey, 24% of families with kids in K through 12th grades reported that they would begin shopping 2 months prior to school’s start (up slightly from 22% last year). The New York Times noted that some marketers began to plant the seeds for back-to-school shopping as early as May, citing Office Depot’s One Direction cause marketing campaign as an example. But with most marketers bracing for a back-to-school shopping period in which spending will decrease from last year’s record highs, getting back-to-school marketing, advertising, product selection and pricing will be more important than ever. How can retailers and marketers compete for these fewer dollars and deliver the needs of more discriminating back-to-school shoppers in 2013? We’ve got three rules for back-to-school that smart marketers will follow:
- Focus on value, not price. Price might be prominent on the minds of moms, but she’s not willing to compromise – even when she has a coupon. We think Target gets it right this back-to-school season with their “Kids Got Style” campaign. Moms know that Target offers low prices (“Expect More, Pay Less.”). But compared to Kohl’s back-to-school campaign, which focuses on mom saving (even showing a close-up of the receipt that suggests she saved over $80), Target keeps the focus on delivering kid confidence. Stylish products take center-stage, but the hero isn’t mom – it’s their confident kids. Target makes mom’s mission more admirable – it’s about getting the best (in a fiscally responsible way), not about pinching a few pennies.
- Keep it light. While Target might have the market cornered on showing kids with style, Kmart has taken a refreshing approach – showing the funnier side of back-to-school. In a bully-sensitive schoolyard, an ad that shows kids “talking trash” might be a risky move. But this playful piece from the discount retailer turns the tables on typical kid slams. The kid stars of these spots, who reflect a more diverse kid cohort and who look decidedly real, call each other out with clever comebacks like “yo mama must have cavities because that hoodie (that she bought at Kmart) is sweeeeet!” Or (our personal favorite), “Your mama’s like a tasty cheese plate because she saved so much cheddar on those Kmart jeans.” Just try to stay stressed out about long back-to-school shopping lists after watching this spot.
- Give her a guide. Much has been made of the lengths that moms will go to comparing prices and online pre-shopping before heading to the store for back-to-school stuff. But the smartest marketers don’t depend on mom doing all her homework. In fact, one trend we think that’s worth following? Help mom make the grade. Pottery Barn Kids caters to a mom who is willing to pay a premium for a custom carrying case, and the retailed knows that these moms really want to get their kids’ gear right. On their website, they let moms shop by child grade – particularly useful for finding the right size backpack for that not-so-preschool, but not-so-big-kid backpack. Moms might be willing to look around for the perfect products for her kids, but she also values brands that give her the reassurance that she’s getting size and style right the first time. At back-to-school, showing you understand what kids need matters as much as offering a varied selection.