Marketers turn to online influencers to promote back-to-school shopping

Friday, August 15th, 2014

We all moan about back-to-school commercials in July, Halloween costumes in August and Christmas trees in September, but the truth is, we’re driving this marketing trend. The increase in mobile usage has transformed the way consumers shop, converting seasonal shopping into a year-round affair. While the timing of purchases has not drastically changed, when research occurs has, which has many marketers launching seasonal campaigns earlier and earlier.

Blue back to school key on keyboard

Let’s look at back-to-school, for example. New research from eMarketer shows that 23% of internet users start researching back-to-school items well before any fireworks launch on July 4. Nearly 65% start by the end of July. This coincides with Facebook’s findings that back-to-school chatter begins to pick up in late July, about one month prior to the traditional timeframe.

Marketers need to be driving online conversation during this time and social and influencer campaigns can be an effective and efficient driver.  A recent Clever Girls Collective study on back-to-school shoppers in their network found:

  • 93.3% purchased something because a BLOGGER recommended it
  • 44.3% say a trusted blogger (influencer) vs. 41.2% family/friends
  • 88% purchased something because a BRAND shared coupons, deals, tips or ideas via social media

As we look at back-to-school influencers, the field is not limited to moms. While they drive 42.7% of back-to-school conversations on Facebook, 18 – 24 year olds drive 25%. This is why JSH&A has taken a dual influencer strategy with back-to-school campaigns for clients Master Lock and dudley.

The agency is working with Master Lock to reach the school-age target through promoting the Master Lock Photo Hunt Challenge, a photo hunt game that has students competing for a spot on the leaderboard while learning about Master Lock’s back-to-school offerings. To reach parents, JSH&A launched an influencer program with Resourceful Mommy Media to reach moms through a series of blog posts, social shares and a Twitter party educating parents on must-have Master Lock products and tips to keep kids safe and secure throughout the school year.

For Master Lock’s Canadian sister brand, dudley, the agency launched the #OOTD (Outfit of the Day) campaign driving teens to Facebook to vote for their favorite back-to-school look for a chance to win school fashions and dudley prizes. The agency is also helping dudley gain share of the #OOTD conversation by working with 50 teen brand ambassadors to feature their back-to-school fashions with dudley products through social shares that include the #OOTD hashtag.

Target is also taking this dual approach by targeting moms within its marketing mix as well as marketing directly to students through online influencers in an effort to generate sales. The national retailer is using YouTube stars to sell Target to the college set though four online video shows under the “Best Year Ever” umbrella. The series follows a before and after dorm room makeover format with Veronica Valencia, a young interior designer, and carts full of Target merchandise. The entire campaign is visible on the brand’s Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter channels with the hashtag #BestYearEver.

While these influencer programs are effective in driving early conversation and engagement online, they should be integrated into an overall marketing mix to support the season. And, of course, a good deal is always king with 75% of back-to-school shoppers saying they are influenced by price and 70% saying that they would go over budget for a good deal.

Image Credit: BigStock