macbook and back to school items

5 ways marketers can harness that back to school feeling

New pens, a shiny new pencil case and the excitement and anticipation of what’s to come – finally spending the days surrounded by your friends, back to routine, back to normality.  However great the summer holidays were, there was always something special about those first days back too.

And research shows that no matter how old we are, that ‘back to school feeling’ permeates well into adulthood. The more relaxed, casual ways of summer are drifting off – from earlier finishes to lazier days – and faced with the prospect of coats, hats and scarves, it’s the time of year we all start to reassess and reappraise.

It all comes down to habit. And us humans are a very habitual species. As NBC reported, if you do something every year for so many years, it’s only logical that habit will stick with you for many years following that. “Research psychiatrist Jeffrey M. Schwartz, a renowned research expert on the neuroscience of habits, says repetitive behaviours can become habits in as few as two or three weeks. What’s more, behaviours regularly repeated for months or years can become ‘very deeply embedded’ and ‘not readily reversed’…it’s because habits literally become wired into your brain.“

So what does it mean for brands and marketers, and how can they harness it to best effect?

1. Make the most of this habit-forming period

September is a huge time for reappraisal and new beginnings – second only to January and the famously short-lived New Year Resolutions.

So if you are trying to build ingrained behaviours – be that offering a subscription service, embedding into your audience’s daily routines or seeking to encourage them to switch to something new – now is a brilliant time to do it.

subscription box

 2. Time to introduce something new

September is also a transition period – with the seasons, weather and mindset all shifting – making it a great time to entice customers in with new products, new things to try and new styles. There’s a ‘new me’ mentality wrapped up in back to school season (remember the glorious feeling of thinking ‘THIS year, I’m going to be the best X?’) and it’s the perfect chance to warm customers up to new products, fashions, tastes or services. So try offering the opportunity to explore something new, try something different and broaden horizons.

3. Make sure your comms reflect the reality check

September is back to routine – the end of summer silly season. Everything starts getting more serious, more grown up, more purposeful again. So use this to your advantage – and make sure your September comms reflect this change of pace. Think about the language used, the tone-of-voice as well as what the overarching content themes you cover are.

4. Tap into nostalgia

Nostalgia’s had something of a heyday over the last 18 months as audiences of all ages sought comfort from happy past memories in the face of challenging modern life (pandemics, inflation, wars – to name a few). It’s infiltrated everything – from fashion trends (see the revival of bucket hats and 70s flares making a worrying come back) to TV and music trends – and shows no signs of stopping. September is a particular apex for nostalgia – bridging a seasonal shift which always prompts reflection  bringing back memories of the transition back to school

video game controller

5. Be purposeful with your content

Seasonal shifts tend to prompt reflection, reconsideration and reassessment. And this is particularly acute in September – as it’s the first annual transition from a ‘positive seasonal shift’ such as winter-to-spring, or spring-to-summer (ie. those where we move into a season of longer days, warmer temperatures) to transition from light to dark, warm to cold. And with this comes an inevitable rise of evening plans shifting indoors, darker days and a more insular, retrospective attitude. Reflecting this in product comms and offers is key – appealing to your audience with more thoughtful, reflective and purpose-led content at this time of year.

It’s the time of year we all reassess, reframe and reconsider. So use this to your advantage – reflect this transitional zeitgeist with your comms, tone and content, encourage exploration and harness the brilliant power of habit-making opportunities.

About the author: Victoria is the Strategy Director at CreativeRace, having previously been a Strategy Director at London-based Clear M&C Saatchi where she led strategic projects for large, global clients including Disney, Prudential, GSK. Prior to that she worked at a variety of brand strategy agencies including BrandCap and Kantar, as well as in management consulting at Deloitte.