Summer Bummer: Back-to-School Marketing Starts Earlier Than Ever

July 6, 2017 — by Amarita Bansal

This article originally appears in AdAge. 

Summer may be in full swing, but back-to-school season for some marketers began long ago — in some cases before students even closed last year’s textbooks. Campaigns from Office Depot and Lands’ End, for example, have already been running for weeks, and more brands are expected to push out campaigns later this week. Compare that to 2016, when back-to-school TV commercials did not begin airing until mid-July.

“As soon as you’re past Fourth of July, you’ll see more brands and retailers talk about back-to-school, which I think is still early,” said Scott Madden, director of empathy at Boston-based advertising agency Connelly Partners. “It’s reached the tipping point where the commercialization and reliance on big data tells them the earlier they get to market, the more likely those shopping in that timeframe will spend more.”

Not necessarily, though. Though the $75.8 billion shopping season is the second-biggest (after holiday) for retailers, the bulk of spending occurs in late July through mid-August, according to ad tech company MediaMath. The company expects this year to be no different from last year, when consumers researched products in early summer but didn’t pull the trigger on buys until closer to the start of the school year.

“Consumers are spending a lot more time in their research and purchase-decision phases, and most of that is done online,” said Laura Carrier, VP-account lead and measurement at MediaMath. She noted that retailers are investing more heavily in awareness-generating marketing, by putting school products on blogs, in educational videos, on social media, or easily accessible on websites, to attract customers looking for inspiration. “Retailers are starting to make the information available earlier — it’s an inspirational fund versus a push to consumer.”

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