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With back-to-school just around the corner, smart brands are incorporating new social elements into their marketing strategy and looking for ways to truly connect and garner engagement from the influential youth market. (doradora1/Getty Images/iStockphoto)
With back-to-school just around the corner, smart brands are incorporating new social elements into their marketing strategy and looking for ways to truly connect and garner engagement from the influential youth market. (doradora1/Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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Three back-to-school marketing campaigns that are getting it right Add to ...

One of biggest challenges faced by brands today is reaching the fast-growing youth market. This target demographic, ranging from 18 to 24 years old, is known to follow the latest trends and is highly susceptible to peer influence. Used to multitasking on multiple devices and mediums, this audience gravitates toward shorter, more visual messaging and doesn’t typically remain loyal to brands for long.

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While not easy to engage, smart brands have are zeroing in on this audience through mobile and social marketing. This is not surprising given the recent results of the Mobile Youth Report which revealed that 81 per cent of people under age 25 sleep with their smartphones next to them.

I recently spoke with one of my mentees, Dave Wilkin, founder of Redwood Strategic, a company specializing in campus and youth experts. He filled me in on some trends we’ll see this September: “[It’s] all about engaging youth in the creation of user generated content for back to school campaigns,” he said. “By leveraging the student’s voice on their personal social networks, campaigns become way more authentic, earning stronger share-tag-tweet worthy content mobilization and consumer engagement.”

With back-to-school just around the corner, smart brands are incorporating new social elements into their marketing strategy and looking for ways to truly connect and garner engagement from the influential youth market. Here are three back-to-school campaigns that got it right:

1. Future Shop epic grants. Future Shop has introduced the ‘Future U' grants campaign which targets students through social media platforms including Instagram and Twitter. The multifaceted campaign offers students financial assistance through a variety of grants that can be won by participating in one of four social contests. Perhaps the most notable element of the campaign is the Radio Grant. This contest encourages students to audition for a chance to be featured in one of Future Shop’s radio ads and win a weekly special. It’s a light-hearted contest that allows students to experience something new and leverages the popular YOLO (you only live once) youth-friendly trend which encourages people to do something they might not have done otherwise.

2. American Eagle Outfitter’s back-to-school cast. Planning ahead, American Eagle engaged consumers on social media earlier this year for a chance to be featured in their 2013 back-to-school cast, part of a larger “ Live Your Life” campaign. Entrants signed up through Facebook to create a profile and earned votes by sharing their submission on personal social media channels. The winners were revealed last month and these real individuals are now the face of American Eagle’s back-to-school 2013 campaign . The campaign allowed winners to share their personal style and talents on a larger platform creating brand advocacy and giving an authentic voice to the American Eagle brand.

3. Teen Vogue’s all-access pass for back-to-school. Saturday, August 10 was designated Teen Vogue’s “ Back-to-School Saturday ” where 100 shopping malls across the US hosted events for fall fashion ranging from runway shows to shopping parties and special offers. Teen Vogue’s website is still aggregating Twitter activity and displaying a live steam of consumer tweets using their official hashtag #BTSS. By displaying student excitement on their site, they have credible third-party voices legitimizing their campaign online. Teen Vogue also provides value to students by offering easy access to all Back-to-School Saturday details on their mobile app, Teen Vogue Insider.

Social media integration is an increasingly vital component of any marketing strategy, but is especially important when it comes to youth-targeted campaigns. Today’s generation of students is on the move and online, and in order to engage with them in a meaningful way, your brand should be too.

Mia Pearson is the co-founder of North Strategic. She has more than two decades of experience in creating and growing communications agencies, and her experience spans many sectors, including financial, technology, consumer and lifestyle.

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