The Two Key Tactics Marketers Should Use For Back-to-school Prep

From Will Eagle, VP Strategy & Marketing, Collab 


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?

The theme of back to school has always been preparation, and that’s no different this year. Indeed, spending is actually expected to increase compared with last year; according to a Deloitte study, 40% of parents expect to spend more on back to school than last year as their children start to resume in-person learning. So while it’s unclear for everyone just what ‘back to school’ will look like, you still need the same – or greater – level of preparedness whether you’re on campus or at your bedroom desk. This year, it’s not just about new school supplies and backpacks: in 2021, it’s more about personal branding; fashion, hair, styling, make-up, accessories and maybe a few low-key flexes to signal to your cohort your brand positioning.

TikTok is a natural place for youth to go for this type of expression. Its reduction of the creative barrier to entry makes it the most accessible platform ever. Combined with the shift we’ve seen from the glossy picture perfection of influencers born of Instagram into the more real or candid approach seen on TikTok, Gen Z are there, creating, and consciously making choices with their expression and representation – all in the context of a deeper understanding of what branding means than any prior cohort. Weren’t we all kids making choices about how we wanted to be seen? The difference now is that Gen Z feels like the most brand-savvy of all cohorts.

For marketers, this means leaning into how their brand should be selected as a representative for the end-user is key. Gen Z wants to know, in the most authentic way possible, why they should select your brand/ product to be part of their very edited approach. Marketers who can tap into Gen Z’s feelings of personal representation will win over those that focus on more pragmatic proof points. Every single choice is a carefully considered and crafted construction.


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

You might be surprised to learn that last year (2020), TikTok played a role in 81% of back-to-school purchases among US users and we expect that will continue/increase this year. With TikTok, you’ve got a strong opportunity on the platform with 29% of TikTok users being parents with children between 6-18 years old (and 41% of those parents fall in the high-income segment) plus TikTok now has more than 130 million active users in the US with an estimated 50% being Gen Z. That means parents and kids are both there, making it a must-have platform in your marketing mix if you want to influence purchase decisions.


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?

There are two key tactics that marketers should consider when developing their media strategies for their online presence.

The first is the focus on conversion to online shopping. TikTok, whilst still young when compared with other platforms, is starting to prove itself as a platform that can drive conversions and they have been upgrading their pixel tracking offerings to make it more sophisticated. Don’t fall into the trap of wanting your campaign to build both brand awareness and drive conversions; focus relentlessly on one KPI only and make it conversions. You’ll likely get a brand boost, sure, but the bifurcated approach many marketers take often leads to creative and media that try to serve all goals but end up overall with a weaker performance than if they had focused on one goal.

The second is tapping into trends. Whilst this can be challenging for some marketers if your brand doesn’t lend itself as readily as others, trends in culture today start on TikTok more than pretty much anywhere else – and that means there’s really a blank canvas for every brand and marketer, with the only limit being creativity (and a healthy media budget.) You can align yourself through media with existing trends – the macro trend of “#backtoschool” has some 5.5 billion views with an average of 16% engagement rate – or identify or create new trends. The paid and organic reach, working in combination, can deliver big numbers on TikTok. Of course, the best way to maximize your chances of success is to partner with Creators who align with your brand.


About Will Eagle

Will Eagle is the VP of Strategy and Marketing at Collab, the leading tech entertainment company powering the creator economy. Will is a seasoned brand, marketing and digital professional, having previously worked at Virgin, MTV, Google, Pinterest, Leo Burnett, in the UK, Canada and the USA.

Will is a five time published author having written YouTube Marketing for Dummies, Read This If You Want To Be YouTube Famous, and his most recent book, Get TikTok Famous Fast.


About Collab

Collab is the leading tech entertainment company that powers the creator economy and drives brand engagement. Working with the biggest names and fastest-rising social media creators, Collab generates 30 billion views every month across digital platforms including TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and Meta. Collab’s proprietary technologies increase creator earnings, grow creator audiences, deliver exclusive TikTok campaign tools for brands, and protect and monetize digital content. As of Q1 2021, Collab has paid its network of creators and rights holder partners more than $160 million.

Collab represents 850+ creators with a combined 1.6 billion total followers, and has one of the largest UGC (user-generated content) libraries in the world. As an official TikTok Marketing and Creative partner, Collab provides brands with unique strategic advantages on the platform. Combining custom technology, campaign expertise, and talent relationships, the company has become the number one creator network on TikTok and a top ten provider of content on YouTube.