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5 Genius Back to School Ad Campaigns

Like clockwork, as soon as the end of summer is in sight, marketers begin rolling out their back to school ads.

This is no surprise given how lucrative the sales period is. When back to school sales outperform Mother’s Day, Easter and Valentine’s Day combined, it’s easy to see why retailers want a piece of the school shopping season action. 

You probably want to take advantage of this time of year too. So to get you inspired, we’ve curated this list of what we think are the five best examples of back to school ads in recent times. 

Kleenex – Someone Needs One

For many schoolchildren, heading back to school can be an emotional time. Especially if they’re moving to a new school away from their friends.

These are exactly the feelings Kleenex explored in their “Someone Needs One” back to school ad campaign. 

To give their campaign some context, Kleenex ran a survey to judge how elementary school kids felt about transitioning to middle school. 

The results found that 91% worried about being late for class, getting lost and getting poor grades. Two in three also worried about not fitting in and being judged by others. 

To combat these feelings Kleenex partnered with the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence to run a workshop for the students which the campaign focuses on heavily. At the end of the workshop, students exchanged packets of Kleenex with heartfelt messages. 

The ingenious aspect of this back to school campaign is how it uses emotion. Not only does it connect with its target audience on a deep emotional level, but the emotion is also intrinsically linked to the product offering. 

Later on, the campaign also used the hashtag #ShareKleenexCare on social media. This gave the brand plenty of extra publicity as people began sharing their own experiences of heading back to school. 

Staples – Spot the Difference

staples back to school twitter ad campaign

This clever campaign featuring a spot the difference challenge from Staples shows that you don’t need to produce expensive video content for great back to school ads. Sometimes a simple tweet can be enough to drive social media engagement. 

The cleverness of this back to school ad is in how you’re forced to closely scrutinize all the various school supplies to solve the challenge. This reminds parents of all the things to add to their back to school shopping list. 

Once it’s solved, the link in the tweet also takes you straight to a well designed landing page for Staples’ back to school shop. 

In addition to carefully leading parents on a path from school shopping list to purchase, the tweet and Facebook post are also engaging. Whether it’s people commenting that they found all the differences or sharing it with friends, generating engagement is crucial to the success of any social media ad. 

Best Buy – Student and Parent Hubs

best buy back to school ad campaign

Another great example of a retailer making it easy for students and parents to find back to school supplies is Best Buy. 

Through their dedicated Student and Parent Hubs, Best Buy makes it easy for both target audiences to find their ideal back to school products. 

By including a variety of information and guides, Best Buy is capturing plenty of parents and students in the early stages of school shopping. By bringing them in early, Best Buy is able to increase the chances that they’ll end up purchasing their school supplies from them. As opposed to doing their research elsewhere and going to another retailer. 

Crayola – #ThankATeacher

crayola back to school

It’s easy to forget that all too often teachers are forced to pay for classroom supplies out of their own pocket. 

While this presents another golden marketing opportunity as teachers will be buying in bulk, Crayola took a different approach. 

They instead created their #ThankATeacher campaign which asked students to upload a colorful note thanking their favorite teacher. Doing so entered them into a competition to win a reward for themselves as well as for their teacher and classroom. 

By making their back to school ad campaign focus on supporting a good cause, Crayon is able to make customers feel good about purchasing from them. 

Newegg – Back to College

Newegg back to college ad campaign

In addition to teachers, another key target audience to keep in mind with your back to school marketing campaigns is college students. Especially seeing as back to college sales outperforms back to school sales by a factor of nearly 2-to-1.  

It’s no surprise then that Newegg targeted this prime demographic with their #DormBattlestation campaign for the new school year. The contest had a grand prize of setting up a student’s dorm room with top of the line PC gaming equipment. 

To accompany this competition, Newegg also created a buying guide to help college students pick the right tech. They also ran a Facebook Live video about how to best set up your dorm room for college. 

By running this competition and investing in digital marketing and social media to support it, Newegg was able to grab the attention of college students.  

Your Back to School Ads

Hopefully now you have some inspiration for your own back to school ads. 

While you may not have the budget to replicate some of the bigger campaigns on this list, remember that doesn’t stop you from being successful. 

The back to school ad campaigns above achieved results because they made an emotional connection. And they didn’t just make this connection with anyone. They had a clear target audience in mind and went after them with relevant resources and offers.

If you keep what makes these campaigns successful in mind, then you’re already halfway to launching your own great back to school ads.

For more general tips, check out our guide on acing your back to school campaign strategies.

join us for a free webinar on back to school marketing. sign up here now.


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