It’s time to go back to school, and that means shopping carts both physical and electronic are being filled with everything from crayons to the latest electronics.

Retail sales are estimated to reach $867.18 billion this year, according to eMarketer, with a 14.8 percent growth for e-commerce. With so many stores to choose from, this can only mean one thing for brands—creative back-to-school marketing.


Stranger Things star Millie Bobbie Brown teamed up with Converse to capture 32 different emotions teens feel on that first day of school with a series of animated GIFs. Appropriately named #FirstDayFeels, Brown acts out a number of scenarios from hyper to nervous, all in bite-sized, easy-to-share images through Giphy.

Converse partnered with publishers like BuzzFeed and Teen Vogue, which will also help the brand get in front of a relevant audience of young women and teens.

Ikea—Oddly, Ikea ASMR

Going back to school can bring feelings of anxiety and excitement, but Ikea is using its own products to elicit feelings of relaxation through sound. “Autonomous sensory meridian response,” or ASMR, is a popular genre of relaxation videos on YouTube that uses soft narration, scratching, tapping, brushing and other gentle sounds found to be therapeutic by many people.

Ikea created a series of ASMR videos using these sensory techniques on products such as sheets, clothes hangers, lamps and other items one might find in a dorm room.

“Back to college is a highly competitive space, and brands—both in- and out-of-home furnishings—are offering unique services and multichannel experiences,” Kerri Homsher, external communications specialist for Ikea, told AListDaily. “So, you always need to be doing something that’s going to make people engage, especially during this time of the year. Whether going off to school or staying close to home, these are big family decisions. We target both the parents—whose focus is on affordable, quality solutions—and the student who wants a stylish, fun space. Their mindsets, priorities and how Ikea can support them are different, so we aim to tailor the messages accordingly.

GapKids and Lionsgate—Back To School, Forward With . . .

GapKids partnered with Lionsgate to bring positive messages to kids as they head back to the classroom with a series of short films. Each of the four shorts highlights a way in which school can be a positive experience—focus through meditation, creativity through art, confidence with a mantra and kindness to one another. Each video ends with the slogan, “Back to school, forward with (focus/creativity/confidence/kindness).”

The final short in the series, focusing on kindness, features actor Jacob Tremblay (Room) and ties into Lionsgate’s upcoming adaptation of the book Wonder. Tremblay plays a young boy named Auggie whose unique face and personality inspire kindness in his new school.

GapKids is, in turn, participating in Lionsgate’s #ChooseKind campaign to coincide with Wonder‘s release in November and World Kindness Day on November 13. Students can participate in a T-shirt contest, creating designs that represent what kindness means to them. The eight winning designs will be sold in select GapKids stores, with profits donated to myFace and Children’s Craniofacial Association.

Shoe Carnival—A Surprise In Store

Shoe Carnival recruited YouTube star Zach King to perform his trademark magic tricks and highlight new styles around the store. In a series of commercials, King “magically” changes customers’ shoes, splits one sneaker into a pair and more, all in the name of back to school shopping.

“More than ever, our category is fragmented, consumers are demanding more, and everyone is shouting about back to school offers,” Todd Beurman, senior vice president of marketing for Shoe Carnival said in a statement. “We had to create a campaign that would break through the clutter and get people to pay closer attention to Shoe Carnival.”

Spending on shoes will average $119 per US parent this school season, according to predictions by Brand Keys. US parents are expected to spend an average of $716 on back-to-school items this year, a six percent increase over 2016 spending of $675.