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Back-to-school shoppers are estimated to spend a lot on supplies this year — nearly $76 billion. The good new: your company doesn’t have to sell binders or crayons to cash in. Companies like Dell and Kraft generate huge revenues each fall with their student-focused marketing campaigns. Here are three marketing tricks used by massive retailers that can help your small business increase profits this month.

Involve Your Target Market

Target seems to shell out the most for back-to-school advertising campaigns, spending about $35 million in 2014 with fruitful results: consumers chose the store as their No. 1 back-to-school shopping spot. To claim such a large share of the market, Target has made a number of key moves. This year, the brand focused its efforts on a kid-centric campaign, featuring TV commercials that were written, designed, and directed by youth. They’re also jumping on the crowdsourcing bandwagon with kids at the helm, offering to fund up to $5 million of kid-proposed education projects in schools.
Here’s a look at one of the kid-produced TV spots:

Target’s goal with these campaigns is to empower kids since they’re the group that ultimately influences purchasing power.
Here’s another example. In 2015 computer giant Dell targeted the youth demographic with the brand’s New Experts docuseries, a six-video program which celebrates young achievers in the fashion, science, media, music, and technology industries. The company smartly captured how its products allow kids to accomplish their goals.
Above all, these companies model a crucial lesson: Don’t just market to your target audience; utilize them. For small businesses, this could mean adding kid testimonials to your website, featuring teens or tweens in your promotional materials, or creating kid-friendly games and content.

Utilize Influencers

The Kind company, famous for its healthy snacks and granola bars, knows that the excitement of back-to-school shopping can wane as long summer days slip away. To combat the longing, Kind celebrated picture-perfect summer memories with its 2015 campaign, #MomentThatPopped.
And Kind proved that not every product needs an A-list celebrity endorsement. Channeling efforts on Instagram and Twitter, the company partnered with social media influencer and artist Rachel Ryle to appeal to consumers’ end-of-summer pathos. Combine that with a charity component — $2 donated to the nonprofit Your Golden Ticket with every tagged photo shared — and the company developed a winning recipe for marketing success.
Another successful back-to-school brand, JCPenney similarly harnessed the power of social media influencers to showcase its ideas for dorm life on specially created instagram accounts, addressing everything from dorm food and organizational how-tos to study tips. College students are a large part of the back-to-school market, so reaching them through their channels will get you a marketing A+.
Consumers want to be engaged by useful content on social media, not just the peddling of products. Find familiar social figures to share your content and do some research to know which platforms your customers are using.

Get Social

Sonic Facebook Post

Sonic is proof that even companies that don’t have a direct stake in the back-to-school game can benefit from late-summer spending. The drive-in smartly inserted itself into social relevance by lamenting one back-to-school woe: the dreaded summer reading list.

The brand offered its Cliff Notes-style service on tomes from Moby Dick to The Giver, catching the attention of social media users and establishing a fun brand voice.
Kraft Cheese had a similar approach. Knowing that busy families often make sandwiches during the school year, the company took to Pinterest to show how its product can be a part of a healthy mid-day meal.
The takeaway: both Sonic and Kraft, while not directly related to school supplies, offer useful content rather than simply adding social commentary.
Kasee Bailey is a freelance writer who draws on her experience working at one of the nation’s top b-schools to report on education, savvy startups, and the latest business trends.

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