July 14, 2020

4 Strategic Ways Brands Can Promote “Back to School” During a COVID-19 Year

Adam Dahlen
4 Strategic Ways Brands Can Promote “Back to School” During a COVID-19 Year

In 2019, Back to School (B2S) season had a total spend of $27.8 billion dollars and brands would typically start planning promotions in early Spring. 

Due to the unprecedented arrival of COVID-19, the 2020 B2S season is unlike anything seen in previous years. PartnerCentric's Director of Partner Success reported that publishers are generally more muted about B2S this year and that the drip of solicitations for placements and specific B2S rate cards are much more restrained from what we've seen in previous years. 

In a time where so many brands are rethinking efforts and strategies, affiliate marketing is a fiscally responsible and cost-effective channel. Because brands don’t pay out unless they make money, it’s a secure investment but how do you ensure you’re reaching the right audiences for Back to School promotions when you don’t have seasonality and past trends to review? 

Below are four tips for brands to consider when they are promoting products and services for Back to School:

1. Consider Geo-targeted Paid Placements

Every state is treating COVID-19 differently. Whereas in some states masks are the norm and infections are trending down, cases are spiking in other parts of the country. If you are driving traffic in specific verticals (school supplies, for example), it is important to consider the regions you are targeting and whether it makes sense to target an audience there with a paid placement. 

2. Reconsider Affiliates you Haven’t Worked With

As brands are looking to augment their marketing mix, revisiting previously underutilized affiliate promotional methods can help meet goals. For example, search and display publishers are now being viewed in a different light because they can target audiences on a granular level, making this the perfect time to revisit previously unused strategies. 

3. Now is Not the Time to “Test” Paid Placements.

Ask for KPIs

Brands need to be very strategic about paid placements during this time because budgets are limited. Publishers can help by including their metrics such as reach and open rate in proposals and by being transparent with brands about the expected results from a paid placement. For our clients where B2S is a priority, placements are part of that but how they are employed is different this year due to targeting and demand needs. It’s crucial to know the additional KPIs that get granular so we can be more exact with our planning.

4. Incorporate Technology

Brands should make technology investments to protect themselves from a compliance perspective while also being smarter and more agile with decision making. By combining strategic program management with tech that provides more control over affiliate marketing investment decisions, brands will be able to plan better for B2S and beyond.

The truth is that there are no certainties when it comes to how school will look come September but brands need to stay creative, agile and data-driven when last year’s approaches just won’t cut it. 

Planning for Back To School and need support? Get in touch.