Back-to-School Insights from Momentum Worldwide

From Matt Belanger, VP, Director of Digital, Comms Strategy, NA at Momentum Worldwide

With 15 years of industry experience, Matt leads digital communications strategy for Momentum US: delivering data-inspired, impact-driven experience planning across social and digital platforms.



With the pandemic leaving a trail of uncertainty and shoppers getting a head start on things for the classroom, how can marketers prepare for back-to-school season in terms of messaging?

It’s all relative to the category you’re working in, but for most marketers working with shopper-based initiatives, you already plan messaging a year or more out from when it’ll actually appear. That said, social media and digital campaigns offer the opportunity to shorten those timelines and communicate with a large group of consumers while adhering to the master brand strategy. Functional messaging that showcases product benefits paired with a relevant understanding of what’s going on in culture (i.e., the need for interpersonal connections, entertainment relief, utility) can help brands integrate authentically into consumers’ daily lives.

In regards to kids, some have been longing for personal connections, moved school districts or their families may have changed socioeconomic status so they worry about being connected, knowing what’s cool or just being a part of something. For parents, they’re worried about these problems for themselves and their kids, too, so the question is how can the brand facilitate a sense of ease for both groups as they try to gain confidence in their return?


How do you think social platforms like TikTok will play a role in back-to-school planning?

Social platforms always reflect what’s going on with the masses, and those masses are all being served content respective to their interests in addition to posting their own content. As we see with TikTok, when it comes to products, trends can drive massive awareness and sales. But most of these trending TikTok items have a functional benefit: they make your skin better (or claim to) or they are a little gadget you didn’t think you needed. Social platforms are such a fun realm to play in because you can always find the right platform for your audience, or just be inspired by what is trending with consumers for quick commentary. Brands can find a way in with TikTok, but it shouldn’t feel like straight-up self-serving brand messaging.


With pandemic habits like online shopping on the rise again due to the recent COVID surges, how are marketers altering their media strategies for online presence?

The pandemic put a huge spotlight on digital, and most brands realized its value overnight … if they didn’t know it before. Some brands get digital and it feels natural, others struggle to, and it shows. A website may have felt like a thing of the past in our world of fast-paced marketing trends, but when you think about it, having a functional website was the crux of surviving the pandemic. If you were a restaurant, your website became your menu or your ordering service, and when patrons sat down, the first thing they did was scan a code that connected them to the brand. It’s the simple housekeeping things brands often forget: to be in consumers’ minds throughout their daily lives, a brand has to be alive in the digital space, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Starting with a deep understanding of the consumer and their social/digital behaviors will help brands plan efficiently.


How does messaging differ when targeting different audience segments for back-to-school campaigns. (i.e. parents, students, higher education students, teachers)?

Targeting is a blessing and a curse. For marketers, it means we can deliver the right product messaging to the people who are most likely to buy. But when you talk to people outside of our field, it’s really a 50/50 split on how happy they feel when they search for those very specific sunglasses they told their friends about …. and mysteriously see an ad a few minutes later. Authenticity and relevancy are key to segmenting messaging and content so that it also feels contextually relevant to the moment and not just a sales-pitch.

Back To School feels like such a functional time period (you need your cool pens, clothes, maybe a ring light for your laptop, necessities for your dorm room, etc.), but with so many of these items acting as a personal reflection of who we are (and those items now being sold to suit those reflections), Back To School is also aspirational. This season signals to parents, children and all of us, “hey, here I am… I’m back for another go at this.” It’s a fresh start and a way to show personality and interests, whether you are a parent buying for your kids or you’re walking into a classroom as a teacher on the first day.