10 Back to School Marketing Ideas Guaranteed to Win Gen Z

In need of back to school marketing ideas? We have 10 ideas to inspire you, plus insight on the best places to find and engage Gen Z audiences.
Fanbytes | Back to school marketing ideas

In 30 seconds:

  • Successful school marketing campaigns have to target not only parents, but also the students themselves. Especially when your target audience is Gen Z (aged from 10 to early 20s).
  • These potential customers are preparing for the new school season, and that means they’re online shopping for the essentials.
  • It’s the perfect time to launch your back to school media campaigns on social media – but which strategies work best? We have everything you need for a grade-A campaign.

Ahead of the new school year, it’s time to start thinking about your back to school marketing ideas

Having been born between 1997 and 2012, it’s Gen Z who make up the largest cohort of students, since they are now secondary school and university age. 

That means this cohort are not just any old college students – they’re the generation of digital natives, used to turning to social media platforms for school shopping inspiration – and they expect different experiences from their interactions with brands, too. 

So how do you succeed with this target audience? We’ve got plenty of ideas on how to reach them, and top tips for TikTok campaigns, too. Let the lesson begin! 

Where should you direct your back to school media campaigns?

When reaching Gen Zers, it’s super important to consider not only what content you include in your marketing campaign, but also where you share it. 

Our expert recommendation? Back to school media campaigns should take to TikTok. Here’s why: it’s where you’ll find a majority of your target market; 60% of TikTok users are Gen Zers. And, in 2020, TikTok played a role in over 80% of back-to-school purchases made by US-based users. 

That stat is shocking to some – but we weren’t surprised. After all, TikTok is Gen Z’s favourite social media platform, and it’s where they’re the most likely to interact with brands. This is largely through the medium of influencers, who are popular TikTok users with large followings. These followers trust them for advice on everything from what books to read, to which clothes to buy – and even which brands to avoid. 

TikTok is a perfect breeding ground for influencers of all kinds – and that includes the perfect accounts to execute your back to school marketing ideasOver the pandemic, influencers became vital for back-to-school sales – and this demand for influencer content from Gen Z has not slowed since.

As the National Retail Federation found, Gen Z have specific ideas about “what they want [from brands], how they want it and how it should be delivered.” Among the things they’re after? Detailed, personalised attention – and to be part of creating the products and services they want. Influencers understand how to reach Gen Zers online better than anyone – they’re already doing it, to great success. Getting them on board is therefore a time-saving method that simply can’t be beaten. 

We’ve done the legwork on how to work most effectively on TikTok and with influencers for Grade-A back-to-school campaigns, so, without further ado: how do you market back to school on TikTok?

Back to school marketing ideas: 10 top strategies

These back to school marketing ideas will help you to understand how best to engage with Gen Z on TikTok – and shine the best light on your school campaigns:

1. Choose the right products

First up, it’s important that you start with the right products. School shoppers are looking to go back to their classrooms with the hottest new trend in tow. School essentials are key to any back-to-school promotions, but back-to-school supplies with the right twist can be even more alluring.

You’d be surprised to learn how hyper-focused Gen Z’s collective attention towards fun, specific products can be. Just ask cleaning brand Evo Lifestyle Products, whose ‘Scrub Daddy’ sponge went viral on TikTok

Working out which back-to-school products are sure to gain Gen Z’s attention can feel like a stab in the dark – which is why we developed Bytesights. It’s a social-listening tool that lets us see what young people are talking about, meaning you can see trends early and create an offering that young people love. 

Sound exciting? Chat with us and check it out

2. Offer hacks and tips

As a marketing strategy for school supplies, hacks can’t be beaten. For the same reason they’re so popular as a way to sell household and lifestyle products – #LifeHack has nearly 80Bn views – young people love to learn, and be let in on ‘secrets’, shortcuts and fun new ways of approaching the ordinary. 

Show how your products fit into real lives or could help them. This kind of strategy is especially successful when paired with an influencer whose lifestyle Gen Z followers are already aiming to emulate. 

@brevite Reply to @_gracehandke_ note to self: buy folders 😬 #brevite #brevitebackpack #willitfit #schoolsupplies ♬ dance(256762) - TimTaj

By putting your brand’s products into real-life back-to-school season situations (such as seeing how much fits in your backpack!) you can also highlight to your target audience just how much they have to gain from your products. 

And one thing we know for sure? Gen Z have serious FOMO (that’s “Fear Of Missing Out”), so you can use this to your advantage by showing them the real potential impact of your range – and what they could be missing out on.

3. Use Gen Z student influencers

One study from Voxburner found that 85% of Generation Z would like to see more diverse representation in advertising. That huge number partly stems from their support of social justice movements and desire for a more inclusive society – and partly from a desire to see themselves represented in the media they consume. 

@lilrotini here’s my personal tutorial on how to dress #lgbt in the fall #backtoschool #wlw ♬ original sound - arabella

Gen Zers love interactivity from brands, so factor this into your campaign ideas. Ask your TikTok audience to share their back to school experiences, or get young voices more heavily involved in your ad. By actively including your target audience within your campaign, you can ensure that you’re showing that you understand them, which in turn emphasises your brand as one worthy of their support. 

Alternatively, partnering with an influencer who matches the target demographic you’re going for means you can collaborate on your campaign, using their expertise to help tailor your social media content and keep it relevant for the young audiences you’re after. 

4. Partner with family influencers

If you’re aiming your content at the younger end of Gen Z, the same logic applies – but it’s also important to also focus your marketing efforts on parents via family influencers

Younger kids may well be active on TikTok themselves, but it’s their millennial parents you’ll be most likely to find browsing the #SchoolSupplies tag for inspiration on what to buy for them. According to TikTok’s own stats, 29% of the platform’s users are parents with children between 6-18 years old. That’s an important target audience for back-to-school spending.

We’re running through our top family influencers on TikTok, so if you’re looking for inspiration on how and why these influencers can add your products to the top of parents’ shopping lists – we’ve got you covered. 

5. Run special discounts and/or hold giveaways

Competitions, giveaways and special discounts all help increase the reach of your social media campaigns by a significant margin. In fact, competitions and giveaways alone help brands to access an average of 34% of their new customers. 

Even better – over 60% of social media users are known to share contests with their friends. 

Add an influencer and promo code into the mix, and your social reach gets even bigger. By using an influencer collaboration to spread the word on your back to school marketing campaign, you’ll get an initial campaign boost to really set the ball rolling amongst their followers. 

Plus, influencer marketing gets great engagement. In this example from brand Stationary Pal, their influencer partnership with @_vickys_journal_tt entailed a haul video which matched the native content on Vicky’s account. 

@_vickys_journal_tt Back to school haul! Stationery from @stationerypal linked in my bio 💕code Viktoriia for 12%. Stationery Pal is also giving away AirPods, Fitbit, Polaroid cameras and Kindles to the customer with any amount of order.😻#asmr #unboxing #stationery #haul #backtoschool #stationerypal #fyp #schoolsuplies #aesthetic ♬ KAWAII Japanese lo-fi element R & B(875210) - Tsuyoshi_san

The brand offered a special discount code for her followers to use, as well as a contest for them to join – and the video already has 10x the amount of views as the average video posted on the brand’s own TikTok account. 

6. Link to TikTok trends

Your products themselves don’t always need to be the flashiest, of-the-minute item to trend on TikTok this school shopping season. Why? Because TikTok trends are often self-perpetuating. It’s often not the item itself that sparks the trend, but the content of the TikTok trend around it. 

If you can link your back-to-school supplies to the trends that are making it big on TikTok, you won’t just hook interest in them: you can ride the wave of the TikTok algorithm to get huge brand exposure and sales.

TikTok trends can be linked to trending audios, hashtags, challenges or dances. You’ll be able to see what’s trending for your TikTok audience niche by engaging with them and seeing what people are frequently posting. Alternatively, you can have us do the research for you – our social listening tool Bytesights has the power to let us know what TikTok users are talking about, and we share weekly TikTok trend marketing tips in our TikTok trends newsletter.

A great example of a recent trend you could use is #jemapelle – a.k.a, a comical misspelling of the french “Je m’appelle”. As of August 2022, TikTokers are using this to post about their learning “fails”. It’s perfect for back-to-school marketing: show a “jemapellewithout your product, and your perfect “je m’apelle” with it! The hashtag’s video views have grown by 15% in one week, making it a perfect way to hop on a viral moment and get seen.

You can also trigger new trends using an influencer strategy, something we’d love to talk with you about.

For more tips like this, sign up for our TikTok trends newsletter

7. Optimise your digital storefront

With any ecommerce campaign, you need to make sure you’re showing your best self in order to guarantee the most amount of sales online. 

That means you can’t forget about your digital storefront – making sure you’ve optimised your account to make it easy for your target audience to make the journey from initial campaign view, to final purchase. 

Don’t forget your TikTok SEO. Young people use this app like Google, meaning they’re searching for the products they want directly within the platform. If you want them to find your items, you need to make sure your content is discoverable. 

Include keywords, hashtags (more on that below), and optimise your content for engagement with text, clear images, and effects. 

If you haven’t yet optimised your TikTok account to make sales, we’ve written guides to take you through setting up your Shopify integration, and also how to drive the most direct sales

8. Use TikTok Education

Hashtags like #LearnOnTikTok have amassed huge numbers of views (over 350Bn and counting) purely because Gen Z loves to learn. 

It makes TikTok an exciting place for your back to school content, because these young people are already engaged in educational content – and they’re keen to promote their own education even further. 

Since there’s a thriving community of users on #EduTok, (another hashtag with almost 150Bn views), tapping into this user base will help promote your brand’s offerings to the right kind of audience and turn them into loyal customers

Offer tips on how your products can help in school, partner with an #EduTok influencer, or simply highlight your brand’s support for educational initiatives, and you’re sure to see more relevant followers discovering your content. 

Our Brand Partnerships Manager, Helen Clow says “For service-led brands like banks, extracurricular courses or even charities, the #LearnOnTikTok hashtag is a perfect way to capture the “Back to School” buzz. You can create value for students by sharing information they crave but don’t get from traditional education. It’s an opportunity to capture the attention of young learners and bring them round to your brand.”

Read more on how TikTok and Education are a surprising match made in heaven for Gen Z users.

9. Sell a lifestyle

If you’ve heard of the ‘that girl’ trend, you’ll know that TikTok is full of lifestyle content. 

In 2021, everyone wanted to be ‘that girl’; the one who wakes up early, does her skincare routine, keeps neat notes and eats enough fruit and vegetables. There are now multiple lifestyle trends – check out #CleanGirl, if you’re looking for inspiration for a minimalist aesthetic – and they’re great opportunities for brands. 

True Student asked us to help us raise awareness of their luxury student accommodation amongst first-year university students in the UK, and we used exactly this strategy. We utilised the “tell me without telling me” trend and asked influencers to give a tour of the luxury student flats by using TikTok’s green screen feature. The campaign was hugely successful, drawing in 357K views and over 2,000 clicks to the website.

By situating your products within a lifestyle or ‘aesthetic’, you can help Gen Zers to visualise them in the context of their own lives (or ideal lives). 

Just like using social media influencers, this can help to market your products to a wider audience – and it’s perfect for if you’re not selling a ‘traditional’ back to school product, too. Simply show how it would fit within the school routine, and you’re good to go.

10. Use the right hashtags

When TikTok users feel involved in your content, they’re way more likely to feel a connection to your brand. On a platform like TikTok, which champions collaboration, that can easily turn into an army of ambassadors, and a lot of user-generated content for your brand to use. 

Getting involved with the right communities means flagging your content in the right ways to reach them. Enter: hashtags. 

Some of the most popular back to school campaign hashtags are:

As we’ve spoken about before, the right hashtag can help to skyrocket your brand. Check out our piece on Viral TikTok Hashtags to learn more, and make sure to tag your back to school campaign with the most relevant hashtags for your audience.

Gen Z: Never too cool for school

The good news is: Gen Z loves to learn, and shop, and they do both on TikTok. 

That positions your brand in the perfect place to benefit from situating your back to school campaign on the video sharing platform. 

And by working with influencers, who have not only the most social nous, but also the most commercial sway of any form of advertising on the platform, you’ll be able to expand your reach, boost your brand sentiment, and tap into a broader range of marketing campaigns

…All of which will bring your back to school campaign more viewers, and more interest from the target audience of students you’ll most benefit from. 

Get in touch with us to find out more about how we can help you place your brand at the top of Gen Z’s wishlist and turn them into loyal customers – be it for back-to-school marketing, or any time in the year!

Whether in the classroom or not, Gen Z loves to learn – and we love to learn about them! Read on for more insights on this inquisitive generation:

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