Macy's Sings Its Way Into Consumers' Minds During Back-to-School

Retailer Kicks Off School A Cappella Challenge

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Macy's hopes to sing its way into parents and students' minds this back-to-school season with an a cappella contest inspired by films like the Pitch Perfect franchise and popular a cappella artists.

The retailer will kick off a national challenge -- open to elementary, middle and high schools, as well as colleges -- in September in order to tap into the growing a cappella trend. Three winning schools will be chosen based on video submissions and each will be awarded $25,000.

Last back-to-school season, the department-store chain hosted another contest that leveraged the lip dub trend.

"For the second year in a row, we are hosting our back-to-school marketing activation on YouTube to reach our target audience where they spend their time," said a Macy's spokeswoman in an email. "Following the success of last year's lip dub competition, where we received creative submissions from around the country, we wanted to offer a new opportunity to participate in a BTS contest and potentially win money for their school."

Macy's will promote the new effort with two national TV spots, which will begin airing on August 2nd. The first features a cappella group Pentatonix performing the Jackson Five's "I Want You Back," while the other deal-heavy ad stars teenagers performing their rendition of the song. The ads, which are also on Macy's YouTube channel, were created by Macy's in-house team and the New York-based shop Carl Byrd & Co.

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Other retailers including Old Navy and Target have also turned to music to appeal to kids during the back-to-school season. Old Navy paired up with DreamWorks Animation's AwesomenessTV to produce an original song and online music video starring the YouTube network's talent. Target also tapped kid influencers for its campaign, which featured another Jackson Five cover: "ABC," performed by Tori Kelly.

Macy's back-to-school push also includes in-store and online efforts to promote trends like "athleisure," boho chic and denim as well as various discounts throughout the season. The retailer is also running a social campaign around its new college lifestyle brand, Dormify, which uses the hashtag #mydormifystyle to encourage girls to share their real dorm-room looks.

Macy's scrapped the college bus tour it began last year, shuttling students from various campuses to nearby Macy's stores, said a spokeswoman for the company, who added that Macy's will keep looking for ways to engage students on campus. The effort was initially designed to help the retailer become more "top of mind" with millennials, a goal Macy's will continue working toward on social media.

"Millennials turn to social media platforms to understand what's hot in fashion," said the Macy's spokeswoman. "It's imperative that we as a retailer stay on top of how fashion trends are being communicated on those platforms and use that awareness to shape our publishing strategy." For example, Macy's regularly taps trending hashtags like #ShoesdayTuesday and #ManiMonday to push its styles, and customizes its social messaging based on local events and trends.

Macy's, which also advertises for Bloomingdale's and exclusive brands like American Rag, spent $166 million on U.S. measured media during the 2014 back-to-school period from July to September, in line with the prior year's spend, according to Kantar Media.

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