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Macy's Buses College Students to Stores in Back-to-School Push

Retailer Hopes to Become More 'Top of Mind' With Millennials

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A new Macy's spot will promote its lip dub contest.
A new Macy's spot will promote its lip dub contest.

Macy's is shuttling college students to its stores, as well as hosting a lip dub contest as part of its back-to-school campaign.

The department store's campus outreach effort includes 15 schools, such as Florida State University, Boston University, Ohio State University and Texas A&M University. About 200 students from each school will be transported from campus to their nearest Macy's. At the store, students will take part in a "shopping party" with musical performances, makeovers, food and gifts before returning to their campuses.

The push, dubbed the "Macy's Campus Tour," is designed to break the barriers that students may face in getting to a Macy's without cars or access to efficient public transportation. It's a move other retailers looking to lure the lucrative college crowd -- the National Retail Federation predicts millennials will spend $913 million of their own money on school supplies this year -- have made as well. Target has been busing students to its stores during back-to-college for 15 years and this year it's visiting 36 campuses, for example.

"It's a way to welcome students into Macy's, into the store, and bring the brand to them," said Tony Giannini, senior VP-media and marketing effectiveness for Macy's. He hopes the campaign will encourage students to shop at Macy's throughout the year, either online or in stores.

Macy's has been trying to build its brand with the millennial generation for years. Last year, it held a mobile pop-up shopping experience on some campuses, though Macy's declined to comment on how that push impacted sales. The retailer is also building its presence in college towns through customized stores that have fashions geared toward students and dorm room supplies.

Some of Macy's other efforts to reach millennial consumers include its juniors' department, called the "mstylelab," and a radio station partnership with Clear Channel called "mstyleradio" that launched in 2013 in stores and on iHeartRadio.com. Macy's also sponsors "Rising Star," which gives bands the chance to perform at the annual iHeartRadio Music Festival in Las Vegas.

"With the millennial customer, we know that we want to become more top of mind with them, be able to reach out to them, and show them the fashions that they may have not have had as of late," said Mr. Giannini.

The department store is also hosting a lib dub contest this back-to-school season for elementary, middle, high school and college students.

Three winning schools will receive a total of $50,000. The idea is to engage more students, parents and teachers with the brand. The contest, called the "Lip Dub Challenge," will run from September to October and is being promoted with a national TV spot lauching August 3 and digital media buys. Lip dubs have been popular among students since 2012, when they took over YouTube, and they are still regularly featured on the site.

Macy's is pushing the "Macy's College Tour," and the "Lip Dub Challenge," alongside its other back-to-school efforts, which include direct mail and newspaper inserts as well as print, digital, social and mobile media buys.

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