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15 Back to School Marketing Ideas Guaranteed to Captivate Gen Z

14 minutes read
Back to school marketing ideas

Autumn is either the dreaded or lovely time, as this is when the back to school season approaches. Back to school shopping season makes the list of the largest shopping events, besides Black Friday and Christmas Eve. During this time, many consumers, especially Gen Z students, need to buy things for themselves or for their relatives.

As a business owner or marketer, it’s important to seize such opportunity and lure these Gen Z consumers with effective marketing ideas and engage them on multiple channels throughout the entire back to school season

Below are 15 back to school marketing ideas that will Gen Z customers will find captivating.

15 Back-to-School Marketing Ideas for Gen Z to help you Stand Out in the Crowd

Take a closer look at some trending marketing ideas that would capture Gen Z’s attention during the approaching back to school season.

1. Engaging videos via TikTok or Instagram

If you're looking to promote back to school marketing ideas to Gen Z, using TikTok or Instagram is a wise choice since they are highly popular platforms.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Gain exposure: A single viral video has the potential to skyrocket a business's popularity, and platforms like TikTok and Instagram can make this a happen. For example, a small fashion business gained over 50k followers and one million views after pubilshing one viral video. 
  • Enhance engagement: Using videos into your back-to-school marketing can increase engagement through features like comments, likes, and shares, making it more likely for your content to go viral.
  • Ensure authenticity and relatability: Brands can showcase their individuality and connect with their audience more personally through TikTok or Instagram videos.

Example/Case Study

Some popular clothing brands have created a series of short Tik Tok videos showcasing their newest back-to-school fashion outfits. These videos did not focus only on the brand's products, but they also introduced users to useful styling/ makeup tips. The campaign went viral among Gen Z and helped push the sales during back to school season.

2. Forming branded back-to-school hashtag

Creating a branded back-to-school hashtag allows your business to collect and analyze content related to its own back-to-school marketing campaigns. Users are encouraged to share their experiences, opinions, feelings, etc., about the brand's products/ services by using specialized hashtags. 

Why should you apply this idea?

  • User-generated content (UGC): With the signature hashtag, brands can encourage the Gen Z to form and share their own back to school post ideas or content. These factors can serve as free advertising to build a group/ community around your brand. 
  • Social media engagement: Using the branded hashtag can somewhat increase the brand’s visibility on social media channels, helping boost their back to school social media campaigns.
  • Trending identification: Managing the branded hashtag helps businesses identify new trends, preferences, habits, etc. related to back-to-school. From then, they are able to launch effective marketing campaigns to reach their target audience.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

Pro Hashtag Data For #BACKTOSCHOOL

Some local stores used the hashtag "#shoplocal" in the last back to school season to attract students to come to their local shop instead of online stores/e-commerce. The hashtag encourages Gen Z to share their own experiences of shopping at a brick-and-mortar store, using local products, and suggestions to improve local products/ shops. The number of posts using this hash is massive and helps promote the sales of many local shops during the back to school period.

3. Exclusive back-to-school discounts or promo codes

Among various types of back to school promotions, exclusive discounts are always a great marketing tool to enhance purchases among consumers (especially Gen Z) during this season.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Sales boosting: When Gen Z is shopping to prepare for supplies or clothing in the back to school season, exclusive promo codes help boost stores’ sales in an effective way. 
  • Gaining customer loyalty: Brands can strengthen their relationship with regular customers and encourage repeat purchases from Gen Z by offering them exclusive discounts or coupons.
  • Word-of-mouth popularity: Gen Z has the tendency to spread appealing discounts through word-of-mouth. They can share your exclusive discounts with their friends, colleagues and let more people know about your business.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

Exclusive Deals From RetailMeNot for NordVPN

RetailMeNot is a coupon website specializing in gathering verified coupon codes from numerous brands worldwide. For the next back to school season, they are distributing exclusive tech and electronics deals up to 65% OFF for NordVPN. Customers can take advantage of this amazing offer to register wanted VPN service at the most reasonable rate.

4. Producing a series of informative and entertaining podcasts

Forming podcasts concentrated on back to school topics can deliver helpful information to Gen Z while drawing their attention to your business with some discussions and interviews.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Brand connection: Podcasts with Gen Z-friendly content can boost brand engagement. This can lead to future engagement with your brand's products or services.
  • Content diversification: Podcasts are a great way to market to Gen Z through social media. They can help optimize back to school social media campaigns and target the right audience.
  • Gaining Trustworthiness: Brands can establish themselves as professionals and innovators in the back-to-school area by producing informative and instructional podcasts.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

ShakeUpLearning 3-part podcast series for back to school marketing campaigns

ShakeUpLearning introduced the 3-part podcast series for their back to school marketing campaigns with guidance for students’ online activities, virtual classroom, templates, etc. The podcasts received good feedback from Gen Z audiences and helped the brand gain high reliability in the educational field.

5. Collaborating in sponsoring events with local schools/educational institutions

Partnership with educational institutions in sponsoring events to implement various marketing ideas for schools is the way that brands can show their support to the education field, community involvement, and collaboration exposure.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Direct customers targeted: Corporation with schools or educational institutions allows brands to connect with the target audience of back to school season: Gen Z students and their parents.
  • Enhance brand image: This type of partnership can enhance the brand reputation and create a good impression among the education community thanks to your brand’s sponsorship. 
  • Offline engagement: Participating in sponsoring events is considered a private school marketing idea as you can interact with Gen Z and their families directly.

Example/Case study

Some local sports brands partnered with nearby high schools to sponsor their back to school sporting fair. The brands set up distributed booths showcasing their products/ services, offered valuable discounts to students, and organized some friendly sporting games for the students. This collaboration enhances brand recognition and sales among Gen Z clients later on.

6. Developing limited-edition back-to-school products/collections

Developing limited-edition products or collections establishes a sense of exclusivity, promoting Gen Z to shop for those unique items for the back to school season.

Especially for online businesses, creating a landing page that contains unique educational collections allows users to quickly find and purchase these limited products. To assist online merchants with landing page design, Gempages distributes lots of pre-made dazzling landing pages to match your design preferences.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Brand signature: Providing exclusive products can make the brand more appealing to its customers, especially Gen Z who value unique ways of expressing their individuality.
  • FOMO and urgency: Since the number of such items is limited, brands can easily push the eagerness to own these signature products among Gen Z before running out of stock.
  • Brand loyalty: Exclusive back-to-school collections keep Gen Z staying longer with the brand every season as they are desired to purchase such items no matter how expensive they are. This is one-of-a-kind loyalty that most brands really need.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

Athleta Debuts Limited-Edition Simone Biles Back-To-School Collection

Athleta's Girls business introduced Athleta Debuts Limited-Edition Simone Biles Back-To-School Collection in 2019, which has nearly doubled its sales in the same year. The collection brought an entirely new design for women's shoes for Athleta, attracting numerous Gen Z to come and experience the brand.

7. Offering loyalty/reward programs specialized in Gen Z

Designing a special loyalty/ reward program for Gen Z is a fantastic way to boost brand engagement and constant purchases, which forms a community of loyal clients with the brand. 

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Constant and repeat purchases: Loyalty programs encourage Gen Z to repeat their purchases multiple times, increasing the CRO and generating consistent sales. 
  • More personalization: The brand can customize the rewards of the loyalty programs/ campaigns to match customers' habits and preferences. Moreover, brands can personalize some offers as the back to school giveaway to VIP clients.
  • Boost engagement: To enhance the Gen Z experience and encourage regular interaction with a brand, loyalty rules and regulations such as levels, badges, or challenges can be implemented. 

Example/Case study

SOUL STAR - a clothing brand from Atlanta, GA - established the "Style Squad" loyalty program exclusively for Gen Z customers. Members joining the loyalty program earn points through different conditions of the program. Clients can interact on either the brand's website or its social media to earn rewarding points. The points can be redeemed for cash or vouchers for the next shopping experience.

During back to school season, hosting workshops or webinars that cater to Gen Z's interests (career development, study tips and tricks, time management, and portfolio management), is an ideal marketing strategy.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Enhance brand interaction: Your brand can improve brand visibility and recognition among the Gen Z segment through such events. In other words, Gen Z can understand the meaning of your brand's products/ services delivered to society.
  • Knowledge/ Information Enhancement: Gen Z nowadays appreciates the value of tips and expertise that workshops or webinars deliver. This information-sharing method helps brands to raise awareness and credibility in the marketplace.
  • Relationship enhancement: Direct interactions through approaches like Q&A sessions, polls, surveys, interviews, etc. assist relationship enhancement with Gen Z in a good way.

Example/Case study

Recently, EVERIFY hosted a webinar series titled “6 Tips to Drive Engagement with the Next Generation". The topics covered in the webinars include efficient time management, financial education, and goal-planning methods. The platform invites professionals, educators, and successful individuals from Generation Z as guest speakers to provide valuable insights for Gen Z students.

9. Designing the back-to-school survival kit and offering it as a giveaway

Establishing a special survival kit - including necessary schooling items, helpful study tools, and exclusive offers to offer a back to school giveaway is an innovative way to draw Gen Z's attention toward your business. 

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Viral effects: These back to school giveaway ideas often generate viral effects on social media platforms. Participants are likely to share and tag their partners in these programs, spreading the giveaways to more clients. 
  • Brand awareness and conversions: Quality giveaways can draw more Gen Z to approach and experience your brand's products/ services.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

ETSY back to school survival kits


Etsy delivered a series of different back to school survival kits specialized for Gen Z students. Most of the kits are paid-to-buy; however, Etsy also offers some free of charge. Participants can receive some survival kits for free by interacting on social media: tagging friends, liking the post, check-in, etc. Compared with the paid ones, the giveaways generated massive engagement on Etsy during that time. 

10. Providing free trials/discounted educational resources

Access to quality educational resources may be an obstacle to various Gen Z students. Offering free trials to such resources is an effective way to show Gen Z how you can assist their lives in multiple aspects.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Upselling chances: Once Gen Z finishes their trial journey with satisfaction, they are likely to upgrade or purchase similar products/ services from the brand. This can be beneficial for sales boosting. 
  • Initial product exposure: For new users of your product, the initial experience allows Gen Z to examine the educational resources and show how the products can meet their needs.
  • Satisfy Gen Z's budget optimization. Free or discounted products/ services help customers to save money efficiently and rate the quality of the products based on their time and money spent. 

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

Udemy provides free courses for learners

Even being the top #1 online learning platform in the marketplace, Udemy still aims to distribute free courses and discounted learning packages to gain more customer segments. Last year, Udemy offered students free trial access to Udemy premium language courses for the back to school season. As a result, many students decided to upgrade the plan or purchase the courses completely after the trial.

11. Applying targeted online advertising campaigns on Gen Z

Implementing targeted online advertising campaigns on Gen Z audiences enables brands to quickly approach and engage different back to school marketing campaign ideas.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Cost-effectiveness strategy: Digital marketing campaigns give brands the choice of optimizing their cost of advertising. This optimization allows brands to save money effectively while still achieving the expected conversions from the Gen Z audience. For brands aiming at specific marketing strategies like back to school email marketing, the returned results from online advertising are measurable through real statistics. 
  • Accurate target audience: Online advertising allows brands to reach their wanted Gen Z audiences through defined metrics like demographics, interests, genders, preferences, etc. This ensures brands deliver messages to the correct audiences.

Example/Case study

Diet Coke - "Drink What Your Mama Gave Ya" is among the best Gen Z marketing campaigns ever. This advertisement begins with two high schoolers in a cafeteria. The advertisement is incredibly watchable due to its retro mood and synth-driven soundtrack. Young customers enjoy watching streaming videos, and this ad appears to be more of a video than an ad break. 

Moreover, Gen Z is the most diverse cohort ever, and they expect companies they support to have diverse representation - Diet Coke has met their expectations. 

12. Hosting virtual study groups/online forums

Instead of relying solely on physical locations for back to school real estate marketing, consider hosting virtual study groups or online forums to connect students. This innovative approach allows Gen Z to share knowledge and seek study support beyond just the back to school season.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Building a well-constructed community: The cyberspace building for Gen Z allows them to interact and collaborate with each other efficiently and helps individuals to fulfill their academic journey.
  • Playing the role of an expert: Brands can position themselves not only as supporters but also as experts in the education field. Then, Gen Z students acknowledge the brand as a trustworthy party that can assist their academic paths. 

Example/Case study

Several private tutoring service providers are hosting virtual study groups on different learning subjects. Gen Z students are encouraged to participate in those communities to ask questions, share information, and seek support if needed. Consequently, Gen Z students find them helpful and later enhance the perception of the brand hosting this service.

13. Partnering with Gen Z influencers/KOLs

Taking advantage of Gen Z influencers or KOLs enables brands to promote their back to school marketing ideas, products/ services to larger audiences. 

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Easy to be viral: Thanks to a mass range of followers, influencers can boost your back to school marketing ideas effectively and turn those points to be viral among Gen Z at ease.
  • Testimonials: Collaborating with influencers or KOLs can assist brands in reaching their devoted customer base and leveraging their credibility to convey the brand message.
  • Content amplification: Most of KOLs' content has the power to spread to numerous target audiences, which can assist brands in gaining awareness and virality through back to school messages.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of Gempages Blog page

Gempages collabs with Shopify in the Shopify Collabs program

In August 2022, Shopify released a new tool called Shopify Collabs, which aims to bring merchants and content creators closer together. Essentially, it's an app that can be installed on your Shopify store to help you build your own network of influencers.

Gempages is one of the Shopify partners that utilize Shopify Collabs at best. With diverse template library, Gempages allows users to customize their designs for online stores and create their own influencer community with Shopify Collabs. This collaboration helps Gempages to attract more new users while boosting their relationship with Shopify.

14. Creating appealing/unique infographics or memes on back-to-school topics

During the back to school season, schools and universities can effectively convey their marketing ideas through appealing infographics or memes.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Sharable and viral:  Infographics and memes are two types of shareable content with the highest proportion of turning viral on social media, which can assist brands to deliver appropriate back to school social media posts.
  • Ease of information dissemination: Many Gen Z finds infographics from brands a great tool to summarize crucial details related to back-to-school topics, bringing value to Gen Z readers. Moreover, brands can present their own personality to impress Gen Z through such content at ease.

Example/Case study

A stationery company publishes a collection of infographics and memes named "Back to School Safely." The infographics provide helpful tips on organization, note-taking, and study techniques, while the memes humorously portray relatable situations such as procrastination and test anxiety. The material is shared on social media by the company, and Gen Z students find it relevant, engaging, and useful, resulting in increased brand awareness, social media virality, and boosted website traffic.

Organizing back-to-school-related contests with the chance to win impressive prizes/ rewards is considered a creative back to school marketing idea.

Why should you apply this idea?

  • Data acquisition: Although most Gen Z wants to secure their private credentials, these competitions can provide opportunities for brands to collect valuable users' information like email addresses or personal preferences. Such details enable brands to build their own customer database and serve as a tool for future marketing initiatives.
  • Increased brand awareness: Gen Z audiences tend to investigate the contests and their prizes seriously, so they are likely to comprehend the brands organizing such events better off. It is a good sign for brands to receive attention from Gen Z audiences.

Example/Case study

Screenshot of website

First-Day-of-School Photo Contest

"First-Day-of-School Photo Contest" is a back-to-school contest where parents take photos on their kids' first day at school. NY Metro Parents introduced the contest in 2021 with the award of a $100 Amazon gift card! These contests truthfully drew the attention of many parents and Gen Z students as thousands of photos were sent to the contest. 

Building your own back-to-school marketing ideas with Gempages

For any eCommerce (and Shopify) business owners who want to deploy their own marketing ideas for the back to school season, Gempages can support with various resources available. The app offers trending design templates in numerous shopping categories like Apparel & Fashion, Electronics, Food & Drink, etc., that online merchants can take advantage of to customize their stores based on back to school themes. 

Furthermore, Gempages delivers an Integrations mode, where merchants can add in various added-in apps from categories like Email Marketing (FirePush, Klaviyo) to help push up the brand's back-to-school email marketing. With a reasonable pricing plan coming with four main options, online merchants can get decent support for their back to school marketing campaigns with Gempages.

Not ready to commit but still want to kick the tires?
No problem! Get started with GemPages' free plan. Explore wonderful features that can do wonders for your store.

Final Thoughts

All of the 15 back to school marketing ideas above should be enough to help you brainstorm some good concepts for running effective marketing campaigns for this special season. And remember that our targeted customer is Gen Z, so creativity & innovation are the factors that your marketing campaigns need to satisfy. Don't forget to follow our latest articles to explore up-to-date marketing tips on other business fields and fascinating occasions.

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