Back to School Marketing: A Change of Season + Reason

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Frank Wehrmann
6P Marketing

I was conditioned to “going back to school” for 17 years. Friends of mine who are certified professionals like doctors and lawyers were conditioned for another 10.

Towards the end of my summers (in Toronto) the Canadian National Exhibition (a.k.a. CNE) would flare up for 10 days and then shut down again. To Torontonians its opening signalled the end of summer.

For all ages and brands, “back to school” signals a change of season and a change of reason for positioning your products or services. Here are a few examples to consider: 

  • If you’re selling summer camps for kids, your season is over. But, for “empty nesters” like me, it’s the perfect time to sell a quiet yoga retreat in the now silent woods.
  • If you’re selling school supplies of any kind, this is your time. But remember who’s paying the tab – and who wants to keep up with the younger generation. Speak to both audiences and give the parents some cool tools to play with as well.
  • Many businesses return to "regular hours" and withdraw the sense of freedom that comes with "summer hours". So help your employees (who are also very valuable brand ambassadors) transition into Fall with a few fun filled Lunch 'n Learn Sessions.

The challenge for your business is to identify genuine intellectual, emotional or seasonal reasons to reach out to your customer base and ask them for their business.

  • REASON: A “Back to School Event” makes sense for stores that sell schools supplies, computer equipment, clothing and dorm furniture.
  • SEASON: An “End of Summer Inventory Clear out” makes sense for stores that sell their inventory by season.
  • INTELLECT: Can you appeal to your customers’ egos with a “sneak preview” of the fall line of fashionable clothing, cars, or new performance enhancing services? Remember, while this is not a “Fall” event, it does lead into Fall.

As you all know, I’m not a fan of sales per se, because in an inelastic market they simply drive down the value of your product or service, give you tomorrow’s customers' today (at a higher marketing cost and lower profit margin), and do nothing to increase market demand for your products or services.

I much prefer these techniques:

  • Giving loyal customers - not strangers - the 1st chance to buy end of season products or services at a reduced rate justified by their loyalty.
  • Giving loyal customers - not strangers - the 1st chance to see, examine, buy and order the new fall products or services.
  • Giving additional time with the purchase of your service.
  • Giving additional value with purchase of your products.

If you need help sorting out how you can promote your products or services in greater harmony with real consumer needs and values, give us a call. We can help.

Remember: Price is what you talk about when you have nothing else to say. Strong brands have lots of success stories to tell and lots of people that love them and refer them. With a strong brand, “price” is NEVER in the top 5-7 reasons to buy – or decline the brand. (Except in Winnipeg.)

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