August 26, 2015

4 Ways Brands Can Top the Class in Back-to-School Branding

The days are getting shorter, there’s a chill in the air (at least for some of us) and football is back on the TV. That can mean one thing – be ready for the return of school buses during your morning backtoschool2commute and a flood of back-to-school ads coming your way.

Back-to-school marketing and branding have graduated (it wouldn’t be right to not throw in a few school references) to big-time status in recent years. What used to consist mostly of stores putting their lunch boxes and notebooks on sale has turned into a major opportunity for companies to brand an entire time of the year.

The numbers speak for themselves – according to a recent report, in 2014 alone, back-to-school spending reached nearly $75 billion, with an average per-family spending for K-12 students coming in at $669.29. With that type of consumer activity and the area for opportunity that exists for brands to become a part of the experience, a strong branding strategy should be the first lesson for brands.

So, sharpen your pencils – here are four examples of how various brands can get an A+ (the last one, I promise) in back-to-school branding:

  1. Let Your Strengths Shine. For some brands, this time of year is ideal for reaffirming an already strong brand position. For brands like Elmer’s Glue, Bic and Crayola, the knowledge that consumers will instantly recognize their brand when doing their back-to-school shopping allows them to bypass the normal starter brand strategies and focus on highlighting their timeless products and classic brand characteristics. Among the mass of available supplies lining the store shelves, even the smallest brand equity can go a long way
  2. Stand Out from the Crowd. When it comes to brands that are looking to make a mark in this space but don’t have the built-in recognition needed to put their product branding at the forefront, the focus should their brand strategy around their uniqueness and differentiating qualities. Whether it is a new technology or a standout design, figure out how to make the consumer pause on your brand when scanning the shelves.
  3. Know Your Audience. Not every student is the same, and neither is every consumer situation. For brands, cutting through the clutter and giving their brand messaging a chance to succeed is driven first and foremost by knowing to whom they are speaking. Is your brand one that resonates with college students? Then highlight how the brand can help that make the dorm room shine. Is your fan a hit among kindergarteners? Brand yourself to speak to them and their parents, who will be making most of the buying decisions.
  4. Capture the Spirit of the Season. Back-to-school is full of hope, anticipation and excitement. Make sure your brand strategy fits these emotions. While the inevitable end of summer can be a sad proposition for a child, the chance for a new year and new adventures is what is going to drive their excitement about school – and if a brand is positioned correctly, their excitement about that brand.

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Addison Whitney is a global branding firm with a passion for building strong brands.
To learn more about Addison Whitney, visit our website at, or contact us here.

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