As we head into the dog days of summer, parents everywhere are united in one thought: I can't wait until these kids go back to school! Bored, cranky, hot kids everywhere are both dreading and anticipating the upcoming school year. And marketers are gearing up their back-to-school sales and specials.
August is the prime month for launching a back-to-school e-mail campaign. Over the last few years, a definite trend has emerged: the first Thursday in August is the Black Friday of the back-to-school world. While there is a big push on the first Tuesday of the month, it's School Colors Thursday that counts. And if last year is any indication, we should see a steady stream of back-to-school e-mail offers through the month of August, with a dramatic drop off once we head into Labor Day.
One exception is the retail computer market. Computer manufacturers and sellers start pushing their back-to-school computer offers in July. One assumes that the fairly hefty purchase of a new laptop takes more consideration than which backpack to get, so the push for the hearts and minds of both students and parents starts early in the computer and electronics fields.
Over the past three years, the amount of e-mail sent with back-to-school savings has increased steadily. In 2007, I tracked 963 e-mail campaigns promoting back-to-school discounts sent between July and August. In 2008, I noted a 47 percent increase in back-to-school e-mails in July and August, totaling 1,810 e-mail campaigns tracked.
So far this year, there seems to be an overall drop in the number of back-to-school campaigns being sent compared with last year. It is hard to say if this is a direct result of the economy, as retailers deal with the marketing division layoffs that have been happening throughout the industry. It will be interesting to see if this trend continues as we head into the winter holiday season.
Another explanation is that retailers might be funneling more marketing dollars into social media. After all, that's where the students are. In 2007 and 2008, Twitter wasn't used to promote back-to-school discounts. So far in 2009, however, there have been 133 e-mails promoting back-to-school discounts that contain links to the brand's Twitter page. Once consumers visit the Twitter page, they see additional back-to-school offers offered through tweets. Even small brands such as Posh Boutique are actively encouraging consumers to become a fan on their Facebook page in their back-to-school messages.
So there it is: computers in July, first Thursday in August for everyone else, and social media spreading its marketing influence everywhere. Here's hoping you get the homeroom you want.
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Bill McCloskey is the founder and chief evangelist for Email Data Source, a competitive intelligence resource for e-mail marketers. He was named one of online advertising's 50 most influential people by "Media" magazine and one of the 100 people to know by "BtoB Magazine." He's been a recognized pioneer in interactive advertising for over 10 years.
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