Target Launches School Shopping List Tool, Taps Social Media Stars

Back-to-School Push Aims to Establish Retailer as One-Stop Shopping Spot

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Target is gearing up for back-to-school, its second biggest selling season, with half a dozen new spots starring social media influencers, as well as a new tool called "School List Assist" and deals to make shopping easier for parents. The effort aims to establish Target as a one-stop shopping destination during the high-traffic period, said Rick Gomez, SVP-marketing at Target.

"During back-to-school season, there are mixed emotions," said Mr. Gomez, referring to the consumer mindset. "It's excitement but it's also stress. And Target is working to become that one-stop solution that provides the on-trend items ... eases hassles with 'School List Assist,' and helps parents stay on budget with a steady stream of promotions."

"School List Assist" is a new tool on Target.com that provides a curated list of school supplies, which parents can order from online for home delivery or in-store pickup. The retailer worked closely with schools across the country to find the common items that parents will be looking for this back-to-school season.

"It's intended to help parents manage the stress of the season," said Mr. Gomez. "They've got to get everything on that list and every year that list gets increasingly more specific."

Target tested "School List Assist" last year in select markets and is currently running the tool in beta.

To show kids that Target has the styles they want, the retailer tapped social media stars like dancer Maddie Ziegler -- best known for Lifetime's "Dance Moms" series and Sia's "Chandelier" and "Elastic Heart" music videos -- and EvanTubehd, who has a YouTube series about toys and gaming.

"Kids are looking to other kids for the latest on what's on trend and what's stylish," said Mr. Gomez. "We wanted to leverage these kid influencers," he said, adding that the stars will also promote the campaign on their own social pages.

Ms. Ziegler will star in a denim spot -- airing in August -- in which she performs alongside other young dancers to show off Target's stretchiest denim.

The effort makes Target the latest retailer to turn to young, online influencers for its back-to-school push. Last year, Old Navy linked up with AwesomenessTV talent to create an online music video and original song.

The six new Target ads begin rolling out on July 19 and each will focus on a different trend and promotion, such as buy-one-get-one offers on licensed products like Star Wars, MInions and Avengers merchandise, and 40% off jeans.

"Parents are on a budget," said Mr Gomez, "and they're trying to get all the things on their list. We will have a steady drum beat of promotional offers throughout the season."

The ads also feature a remake of the Jackson Five's "ABC" performed by artist Tori Kelly, who has a strong following of her own on social media. The song will be available for download on Target's website as part of a cause-related push. For every download, the retailer will donate $5 in school supplies -- up to $3.5 million -- to the Kids in Need Foundation, a charity it supported during last year's back-to-school effort as well.

During back-to-school, Target will use social to highlight products and trends throughout the season. Digital is a growing focus for the brand, Mr. Gomez said, adding that the retailer continues to boost investment in the space each year.

Mr. Gomez declined to comment on the budget for this year's back-to-school effort. The retailer spent $1.65 billion on domestic advertising in 2014, according to the Ad Age Datacenter.

72andSunny led the campaign for Target, while LatinWorks developed Spanish-language ads for the push. Knock worked on the in-store advertising and Haworth handled media.

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