“Back-to-school” represents one of the biggest shopping seasons in the year. Ranging from mid-July to mid-September, this is the time when students and parents alike shop for a wide range of school supplies such as books, stationery, tech products, clothes, electronics etc. The opportunity to make the best of this situation and capture dollars is certainly not lost to the brands. However according to National Retail Federation the back to school budget is predicted to decrease from $74.9 billion dollars in 2014 to $68 billion dollars in 2015, due to slow economic growth. Thus it has become imperative that brands stay on top of their game and try and capture most of this market.

According to the recent article on Ad Age – Target has come up with a dual marketing strategy to attract both children and parents to its brand this back-to-school season.

To make shopping a less stressful experience for the parents, Target added a new tool called “School List Assist” on Target.com. This tool provides a curated list of school supplies that children need before school begins. Parents can order online for home delivery or in-store purchase of these items. In this way, Target becomes a one-stop-solution for all back-to-school supplies and parents can shop conveniently from the comfort of their home. This tool also offers a steady stream of discounts and promotions, helping parents remain within their budgets.

To show children that Target has the styles they want, the retailer has signed on social media stars like dancer Maddie Ziegler (best known for Lifetime’s “Dance Moms” series), EvanTubeHD (who has a YouTube series about toys and gaming) and artists like Sia (known for her music videos “Chandelier” and “Elastic Heart’’) on to their back-to-school campaign.

Using social media websites is the most common activity of today’s children. Social networking websites such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace; Video sites such as YouTube and Vine; blogs, virtual worlds and gaming sites are their portal for entertainment and communication. Children look to other children to know the latest trends, who in turn look up to social media stars. Thus by getting social media stars on board, Target has pushed its marketing efforts in the right direction to attract their young customers.

Target is not the first brand to use social media influencers to target the young generation. Brands such as Old Navy, Dick’s Sporting Goods and GoPro last year got social media influencers to use their products, upload pictures and videos, tweet and even create brand content. Dick’s “Holiday Social Media Influencers’’ campaign generated more than 130,000 clicks to Dick’s website, created 6.2 million engagements, 27.5 million impressions and 4,000 new Twitter followers.

Social media stars for the younger generation are becoming as prominent as Hollywood celebrities or musicians are for the older generation. The younger generation consumes more social media than television. They have more faith in user generated content and peer to peer recommendation than celebrity endorsement. Thus for campaigns targeted towards children like the “Back-to-School” campaign- the marketing trends are certainly changing. By making an interactive, easy to use website Target connected with the older generation and by getting social media stars, it forged loyalty with the younger generation. More brands need to jump onto the wagon of using social media influencers, as they not only help increase the sales but also customer engagement and brand awareness. Just having an online presence is no longer sufficient. A strong integration between the company and social media is a requisite to survive in this competitive business landscape.

Garima Thakker, MSD Intern