Marketing in a Downturn: Preparing for Back-to-School with Old Navy

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The current state of the United States economy has many retailers and brands worried about how it could affect the busiest times of their fiscal years. However, back-to-school (BTS) shopping is coming up, and it does not seem to be impacted even in economic downturn. According to Deloitte’s 2022 BTS study, parents plan on spending approximately $660 (8% higher than last year) to replenish their students’ school apparel and supplies.

At CommerceNext 2022: The Ecommerce Growth Show, Jamie Gersch, SVP & CMO at Old Navy discussed how to stay relevant and successful even through macro downturns.

Read on for the session’s key insights on how to efficiently prepare for the BTS season and watch the full session recording on the CommerceNext YouTube channel.

Staying Relevant (While Staying True To Core Brand Values)

Old Navy opened its doors in 1994 with the mission to provide affordable and stylish clothing to everyone. While the core values and iconic flag tees have not changed since the brand’s conception, the world has changed immensely. At this year’s conference, Old Navy’s SVP & CMO explained how the brand engages with the changes new generations bring to stay relevant while staying true to their core values.

In recent years, marketers have realized the most critical way to remain relevant is by connecting with target audiences where they are. In this case, for Gen Z, that’s TikTok. Out of the 74 million Americans using the social media platform, almost 60% are classified as members of Generation Z. Old Navy used this information to explore the platform, and ultimately reached thousands of their target customers, just in time for back-to-school shopping. The brand stresses the importance of using social media marketing channels like TikTok to broaden the scope of BTS shopping because the season is not solely about the students. To bring this ideal to life, Old Navy now includes teachers in its TikTok marketing strategies to ensure they are reaching all of the involved audiences.

Leveraging their iconic flag tees, a core product and symbol of Old Navy, the brand figured out how to reach a broader, more diverse audience. We all know the shirts, the Fourth of July staple. Knowing the demo of Gen Z, however, Old Navy gave their designers the freedom to reinvent the classic look, for the first time ever. Their 2022 Flag Tee collection is now inclusive and diverse, including a Spanish language design.

Old Navy Flag Tee

Listen To Your Customers

Old Navy believes that to guarantee marketing success, you must listen to what your consumers want and need. Entering a new school year looks different for every student, especially in the various environments of education today. Some are planning for in-person learning, some are still hybrid or remote, and it is important to be able to cater to all students.

Old Navy heard parents’ concerns regarding the rising impact of inflation. To combat this, the brand introduced “Price ON-Lock”. This initiative lends a helping hand to families preparing for back-to-school shopping by locking prices on select apparel items throughout the season.

In addition, the brand’s recent BTS ad campaigns were completely crowdsourced by TikTok users. The newest ad, “Written by the Internet: Back to School” combines all of the creative ideas made directly by consumers. The ad turned commenters into co-creators, letting the target audience know they are heard, understood and appreciated during the back-to-school season.

Retailers and brands cannot doubt the importance of involving themselves in the back-to-school shopping season. With spending estimates on the rise, it is sure to be a successful couple of weeks for a variety of brands. As we learned from Old Navy at CommerceNext 2022, the best way to market to parents and students for BTS and every other time of the year is to embrace the new generation and listen to what they want/ need. 

To learn more, watch the full session on YouTube today.