Email marketing

11 lessons to help you ace your back-to-school email marketing campaigns

Emily Riedy, June 28th 2021
back to school marketing hero

Though schools do not open until September, preparations for back-to-school begin in August, so brands need to brainstorm how they can creatively market their products.  

NRF predicts that those families that have children K-12 will spend $848.90 in 2022, about $59 over 2021 year, with back-to-school spending reaching up to $37.1B and college spending expected to be higher, reaching $71B—up an all time high since the survey began in 2003 [NRF].

Break out your pens, pencils, notebooks, laptops—or whatever materials you use to jot down notes—and follow along to discover 11 grade-A back-to-school email lessons (plus examples) that’ll inspire your own seasonal marketing campaign.  

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11 back-to-school email lessons (plus examples)

Here are 11 email lessons and examples from brands that delighted their audience with quirky and relevant back-to-school marketing campaigns. 

1. Girlfriend Collective has an email that is all inclusive 

Subject line: Take 15% off for back to school and, you know, life

Lesson: Everyone is a student in one way or another

a girl in a baseball hat from the brand Girlfriend Collective with a back to school offer

Girlfriend Collective’s back-to-school email recognizes that a “student” can be anyone, not just people in grade school, highschool, or college, which cleverly widens their target audience for the campaign.

The girl in their feature image is preparing herself to tackle any thing returning to school may bring. The “back at it” copy resonates with students and parents alike who are saying goodbye to the summer months and looking ahead towards demanding school schedules and hard work. 

2. Catbird NYC focuses on student sentiment in their emails

Subject line: Back to School Blues

Lesson: Promote your products with familiar phrases

catbird's back to school email featuring two blue gemstone rings

Jewelry brand Catbird puts a creative twist on the common phrase, “back-to-school blues.”

They use it as an opportunity to highlight their blue products—rings, necklaces, and earrings that contain blue gemstones. It’s an inventive way to ground a marketing message in something that their audience is colloquially familiar with. 

3. Quay is all about style and product essentials in their email newsletter


Lesson: Highlight what your products look like on a person

quay's promotional email featuring an image of their bluelight glasses and a girl modeling the glasses

Returning to school means spending a lot more time in front of a computer screen. Quay’s bluelight classes are just the item students will need to avoid hours of eye-strain and uncomfortable headaches. 

Not only does their back-to-school email showcase a new product line, but they also include an image of a young girl modeling an item from that line to give their audience a better sense of what it looks like on a real person.  

4. O’Neill has a back to school email that is all about style and fashion 

Subject Line: The Back To School Edit

Lesson: Demonstrate how to style your products

oneill's back to school email with multiple images of a girl in the same outfit

Speaking of modeling a particular product, surf brand O’Neill pulls an entire outfit together to demonstrate how their back-to-school apparel line can be styled. 

Students who want to fashionably strut into a new school year can use O’Neill’s outfit recommendation to build a look that’s uniquely their own. 

5. Super Coffee offers a back to school sale with a pop quiz

Subject line: Back to school SALE

Lesson: Make your emails interactive

super coffee's email with a math problem and a discount code

In their back-to-school email, Super Coffee offers a 25 percent discount code to anyone who can solve their presented math problem. It makes their email interactive and it’s highly relevant for the seasonal event. 

Caffeine is a must for students and parents who are gearing up to face a new school year. Super Coffee wants their audience’s mental prowess and caffeine supply to be primed for the year ahead. 

6. OSEA Malibu focuses on young adults in their email 

Subject line: A Little Back to School Appreciation 

Lesson: Zero in on a particular audience

a girl writing in a journal alongside OSEA's product with a discount code listed at the bottom

Clean skincare brand OSEA takes a more targeted approach to their back-to-school campaign. Instead of focusing on students and their parents, they zero their messaging on teachers. 

Teachers are the heroes of the back-to-school season—they spend months planning for the upcoming year and their lessons will shape the experiences and minds of younger generations. OSEA hopes teachers will practice a little self care, offering them a discount in appreciation for all that they do. 

7. Drift offers students what they care about in their email

Subject line: Save on Back to School Scents

Lesson: Talk about what your customer’s care about

a car interior with a product discount code from drift

Drift uses their back-to-school email campaign to promote their line of car scents that’ll keep cars of all kinds smelling fresh. Car interiors will need some TLC as students and parents prepare to head back to school. 

For some students, back to school means back to sports. And for parents, this translates to driving kids (and sometimes their friends) and gear to and from sweaty sporting events. For college students who drive around with their friends, avoiding a potentially smelly situation is a must. 

8. Native Deodorant has a back to school email that is for the youth

Subject line: Check out these back to school scents! 

Lesson: Help your customers feel confident and comfortable

a girl holding Native deodorant in the brand's back to school email

Since I’m on the topic of smelling good, Native Deodorant formulated a special line of deodorant for teenagers. Their back-to-school email highlights their speciality product and encourages parents to help their teenagers feel confident on their first day of school. 

Students have their plates piled high with worries as they navigate new subjects and new friendships, but Native Deodorant has their back as they sweat the big stuff. 

9. Hari Mari ties together the end of summer and the beginning of school in its email 

Subject line: Back To School Means . . .

Lesson: Have a deep understanding of your customers

hari mari's sneakers with details about the products materials and comfort

Hari Mari uses their email subject line to entice subscribers to click through to the content of their message, which is a clever way to generate some curiosity from their audience. 

Given their understanding of students and what a typical day in their life looks like, Hari Mari promotes a line of sneakers that can stand up to the demands of a busy individual (think: walking to and from classes, hours spent on their feet, etc.). 

10. She’s Birdie back to school email message offers a discount

Subject line: 🐥 10% Off Back to School Sale Starts Today!

Lesson: Promotions can encourage your subscribers to buy

a girl holding a She's Birdie alarm in the brand's promotional email.

As students return to school, they’ll need materials to be safe and successful both in the classroom and outside of it. She’s Birdie promotes their alarm in their back-to-school email to help keep female students safe as they return to campus. 

The price of an item shouldn’t prevent someone from keeping themselves out of harm’s way, so they also include a 10 percent discount students (or parents) can use to purchase their product. 

11. Vinodivino is focused on the parents and not the students in its email message 

Subject line: Back to School? Send wine…

Lesson: Your customers need things for the classroom and for life

Vinodivino's september newsletter that outlines wine tastings and includes a picture of wine bottles.

Students going back to school often are filled with excitement as they prepare to learn new topics and return to their social circles. Parents, who may be juggling their kids’ schedules in addition to their own work loads, might be feeling a bit…overwhelmed. 

Well, Vinodivino swoops in to save the day. Their September email newsletter is a parent’s back-to-school survival kit and outlines the brand’s upcoming schedule for wine tastings. The design of the email is simple and presents the information parents need to know in a concise way—namely, time, place, and what wines are on tap. 

Prepare your brand for the back-to-school shopping rush

The sooner you can outline ways to creatively market your products to students, parents, or teachers, the sooner your audience will potentially spend their back to school dollars with your brand. 

Even if you don’t sell notebooks, apparel, or other typical back to school items, you never know what your audience will need to make it through the year. The back-to-school time of year gives you an opportunity to flex your creative muscles and be part of a major shopping season.

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Emily Riedy
Emily Riedy
Content strategist
Emily Riedy is a content strategist at Klaviyo. She creates and optimizes content to help online businesses own their growth. Before joining Klaviyo, Emily worked at a digital marketing agency where she created content to help small business owners and marketers grow their online advertising presence. When she’s not writing, Emily enjoys making tacos, running, and sipping on orange wine.