Back to school means a chance to rethink teen marketing


Traditional back to school marketing revolves around offers on backpack and lunchbox items, but new insight from the National Schools Partnership shows teachers are crying out for brands to do so much more.

There is no escaping those awkward teenage years when budding schoolyard romances were thwarted by the demons of puberty – spots, breaking voices, sweaty armpits, and of course, the super sensitive issues of periods and sex.

There, I said it, those two words that are thrown about carelessly in the schoolyard but are painfully and reluctantly spoken about in the classroom. Many teachers aren’t able to talk about it in-depth, according to the results of a National Schools Partnership survey of 102 secondary school teachers in May and June this year.

While 29% of teachers in the survey admitted there were gaps in the provision of teaching about puberty, they outlined the main reasons as a lack of time, as well as missing the training and confidence to deliver this type of teaching.

Enter brands. Brands are already involved in sponsoring things like school sports and arts schemes, or providing practical finance awareness to students, but the teachers in this survey were crying out for brands to help them support their teenage students when it came to physical and sexual education.

84% said they would appreciate resources from brand manufacturers, ranging from more information on websites (68%), lesson plans (65%), worksheets (63%), and even product samples (61%). 57% said they would appreciate visits from trained staff from a brand organisation, and 34% would be interested in receiving teacher training on these topics.

Some brands might take this as an invite to start sending samples of spot treatment to their local high schools, but it’s about more than just that, but offering the brand up as a trusted advisor of accurate, unbiased information – something the survey said teachers were concerned about in terms of the social media sources students currently supplement their school-based information from.


And while some may say it’s an extra step that brands can’t be sure will pay off, it’s a step that doesn’t take much more than enhancing the social media and digital strategies some obvious brands have already put in place.

Female sanitary brand U by Kotex, for example, hosts an online forum for girls to post embarrassing and funny stories, while skincare brand Clearasil’s website answers a range of FAQs, and condom brand Durex also hosts an online forum to discuss users’ issues.

It’s a logical social media engagement strategy, and ramping up this outreach to take formal programmes into schools to provide their expertise not only endears the brand early to a new generation of potentially lifelong advocates, but to the wider community from a PR perspective.

It’s a tactic being favoured in emerging markets, with brands from big conglomerates such as Unilever and Kimberly Clark undertaking roadshows in Africa to spread brand awareness alongside tutorials of health and hygiene, to provide a service and not just an advertising campaign.

They might be addressing more basic needs in emerging markets, but similar principles can be applied here in the UK to help put both teachers’ and students’ minds at ease. Gaining brand buzz, PR opportunities, new advocates and loyalists; it’s a win-win situation – all brands have to be prepared to do is brace themselves to take on the most awkward of teenage issues confidently.


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