Backpacks, tennis shoes, lunchboxes, folders of every color, and clothes of every style – it can only be back-to-school season. In acknowledgement of all of the bells and buses of the new school year, we took a look at music of this year’s back-to-school ads to see just how creatively brands are marketing to their Gen-Z consumers.
Music is a global passion point for all consumers. For those still roaming the halls, music is a means of social definition and peer interaction. Music should be the first thing brands, agencies and creatives turn to when messaging to young people. These Top 5 Most Musically Engaging Back-To-School Ads demonstrate some of the best ways to harness the marketing power of music to lock in an A+ with these culturally savvy kids.
1) Old Navy
“Unlimited” by Cisco Adler and Alex Aiono
Old Navy knocked our socks off with their use of music in their marketing strategy for this year’s back-to-school season. The brand partnered with AwesomenessTV to create a back-to-school anthem, but they didn’t just outsource the task to a stock music library; in order for it to truly connect with students, it needed to be an authentically written and recorded song.
They brought in music producer Cisco Adler, seven rising YouTube musicians, and a Millennial video editor to create a recording, music video, and social media campaign for the song, “Unlimited,” the lyrics of which were influenced by interviews with children of The Boys and Girls Clubs of America who talked about what the word “Unlimited” means to them.
In six weeks, the video has been viewed nearly 12 million times with 3,000 comments and 43,000 likes. Extra credit for even creating a new product line – shirts with the “#Unlimited” imprint on them – and a BandCamp page to support the campaign.
2) Famous Footwear
“Auld Lang Syne (Cover)” by Madeline Dolinsky
In thirty short seconds, Famous Footwear captures the anxiety and excitement that kids of all ages experience on the first day of school, whether that’s the last year of junior high or the first year of college. There’s a sonic juxtaposition woven throughout the ad, which begins with a blaring alarm clock, stadium applause, and a distant countdown from five to one. At the same time, however, Chicago singer/songwriter Madeline Dolinsky performs “Auld Lang Syne” to manifest the ad into a poignant story of moving onward and growing up. Madeline also released the song on her SoundCloud following the ad’s airtime.
3) Shoe Carnival
“Everything’s Gonna Be Better Next Year” by The Rescues
Shoe Carnival sought to connect with the Snapchatting, Instagramming Gen-Z student who looks forward to the first day of school as a return to social mingling and self-expression. Excitement for hallway drama meets anxiety for the end of summer in this ad, which is complemented perfectly by the song “Everything’s Gonna Be Better Next Year” by Los Angeles indie pop/rock band, The Rescues.
“Young Blood” by The Naked and Famous
Throughout the back-to-school season, Kohl’s paired its ads with the song “Young Blood” by the indie electronic band, The Naked and Famous. Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, the band’s 2010 youth anthem, “Young Blood” continues to define the maturing Generation Z. Though Kohl’s featured the song in a range of videos for kids of all ages, its sync with “Young Blood” in its “What Will Your Dorm Say About You” ad best suited the story of newly orientated college freshmen.
5) American Eagle Outfitters
“What Brings You” by Kris Gruen and Brad Gordon
American Eagle Outfitters typically targets the more mature student, from older high school to college-aged young people. Their back-to-school ad featured a squad of young folks enjoying the remaining days of summer together, lingering in the sun-kissed outdoors of the summer twilight. To match the youthful vigor of the characters’ leisure and love, the brand licensed “What Brings You” by singer-songwriters Kris Gruen and Brad Gordon, the instrumentation of which matches the musical identity of a carefree summer.
By: Zach Miller, Music Dealers