Best Back To School Campaigns, Part II: Target’s Social Checklist

On Wednesday, I kicked off my series on the best Back to School marketing campaigns of 2010.  I sought out campaigns that are innovative, fun and helpful, both to the shopper and the community at large.  In Part II of the series, I will highlight Target’s innovative and extremely useful “Roomates” Facebook app.

Target is a popular destination for college students stocking up on dorm necessities.  To help ensure these coeds get everything they need, Target has developed an interactive checklist accessible via Facebook.  The checklist has three options (“buy,” “have” and “pass”), and includes links to purchase specific products on Target.com.

The best part about this campaign, however, is the roommates option.  This part of the app allows students to share their list with their roommate(s), helping ensure that one suite will not wind up with four vacuums and only one lamp.  The app also features messaging, calendars, and even a bill splitter – definitely something I wish I had in college.

Once the checklist is complete, students can select the print option and bring the list along on their shopping trip.  The checklist is even available on Target.com in a more traditional PDF format.  All in all, this campaign is a helpful tool for college students, as well as an ingenious way to show off the megastore’s seemingly innumerable product offerings.

Stop by our blog on Monday for the conclusion of this series, in which I discuss two innovative and cost-effective alternatives to the traditional college bookstore.

Best Back To School Campaigns, Part I: Staples Makes a Difference

Two weeks ago, a milestone was reached: I received my first school-related e-mail message.  It opened with a jolly greeting from my professor, and moved quickly to talk of future assignments and course requirements.  That’s when it hit me – I need to get ready for back to school!

As a grad student, I’ve done the Back to School ritual more times then I’d care to count.  So, to liven up the hunt this year, I’ve added an additional item to my usual list of notebooks, highlighters and (of course) new shoes – find my favorite Back to School marketing campaigns.  I sought out campaigns that are innovative, fun and helpful, both to the shopper and the community at large.  A lucky few made it to the top of the class, and I will detail those campaigns in a series of three posts.  Today, I will profile Staples’ philanthropy.

Students and parents browsing the aisles (or web site pages) of this office superstore for back to school necessities can do more than just buy – they can give back, too.  For the third year in a row, Staples has partnered with teen-centric non-profit DoSomething.org to collect school supplies for children in need.  Donation bins have been set up in Staples retail locations across the country, and school supplies of all kinds will be collected now through September 18th.

This year, Staples used Facebook and a celeb-filled online game to help students get involved.  Teen can vote to join their favorite celebrity’s “pack,” and in the process donate $1 to the cause.  Donations are also accepted via text message.

All in all, I loved Staples’ idea and its execution.  These simple donations are a great way to teach everyone from preschoolers to high schoolers the importance of generosity and kindness towards those who are less fortunate.  Furthermore, through their Do Something 101 microsite, they provide helpful tips that help students run their own school supply drives – the lesson being that teens can really “do something” big to help their communities.

Judging by the 28,000 Facebook fans and thousands of votes on the contest page, this event is a proving to be a success.  Even Staples’ archrival Dunder Mifflin is getting in on the action!  With that endorsement secured, I now know where I’ll be purchasing my paper…

I hope you have enjoyed this first installment of my survey of the best of Back to School.  Be sure to visit our blog soon to see who else made the list!

Learning Loyalty from the Grateful Dead

In 2008, David Meerman Scott drew comparisons between social marketing and the Grateful Dead at the the first Inbound Marketing Conference in Massachusetts. Having seen dozens of Dead shows, my first in 1982, I immediately understood what he was talking about.

This band did everything differently– they produced only 13 albums over 30 years but instead toured constantly, doing more than 2300 shows. They played different songs every night from their catalog of 500 and supported the fans need for live shows by letting them record from a special section in the audience. Their brand lives on more than 15 years after Jerry Garcia’s death, and new fans are discovering them even now.

So, when I heard that David and Brian Halligan of Hubspot had written “Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead: What Every Business Can Learn from the Most Iconic Band in History”, I knew I needed to review it here. It covers how the Dead did the marketing basics differently: Their unique brand, message and offering, their fans(customers), and finally, their business model and operations. It’s a perfect guide for CEOs and marketers to learn to think differently and  create a break through brand.

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Do you like what I like? The power of social influence.

Twenty years ago, our friend Dan did meticulous research on lawnmowers, comparing price and quality, reading Consumer Reports, and talking to various salesmen, asking questions at local stores. Once he decided which brand and model to buy, we piggybacked on his research and bought the same one because we knew he did a thorough evaluation.

While influence is nothing new, the many ways we’re influenced is, in more and more ways.  If you consider all of the consumer buying decisions we make: where we shop and dine out, which movies we see and what music we listen to, we have always made decisions with influence from our family, our friends, and, even perfect strangers.

Now, in addition to in-person influence, we are often influenced by a virtual community made up of people that we know, and their friends, many who post their opinions on Facebook, by liking a page, or on Amazon, by reviewing a product, or on Yelp, by reviewing a restaurant or local business.  (Yelp, by the way, got in trouble with site users for manipulating reviews in favor of advertisers and has changed their policy based on widespread negative feedback.)

That’s why Facebook has been making it easy for companies to incorporate the Like widget on their websites and blogs. Everything you “like” is cataloged for all of your Facebook friends to see.

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