Increase your sales with our marketing tips

Extraordinary “old” Back To School Campaigns

Back-To-School means fresh starts, new shoes, sharpened pencils, and the opportunity to run a great promotion for your online shop.

Check out our last two posts on the topic: 3 Back to School Campaigns: what they’re doing right and not so right… and “I sell auto-parts” and other excuses to not run a back-to-school campaign

This piece brings you inspiration from Back To School catalogs and advertisements of the past:

(1) 1950’s Sears Catalog Pages

Boy_Clothes 1950 1950

These are two pages clipped out of a 1950’s back to school Sears catalog. Of course, all the product imagery is relevant: “school clothes” reflecting the fashions of the time. Specifically, however, we love how fun and kid-like the catalog is. And as catalog experts and enthusiasts we appreciate the clean lines and beautifully formatted catalog pages.

(2) 1957 Thermos Catalog Ad


This 1957 Thermos ad is an appeal to the emotions of the suburban house-mom of the 1950’s. This image is a snippet of a larger catalog ad that reads: “Only when you prepare the lunch yourself are you sure your youngster is getting the proper, balanced nourishment so necessary during busy school days….” . Although that specific emotion and language may not work so well in 2015, what this ad does do well is play to the emotional side of Back To School. Which we’ll see in the next catalog cover too…

(3) 1975 Sears Catalog Cover



This catalog cover, much like the 1957 Thermos ad appeals to the emotions – children are growing up and heading back to school, they’re’ growing old so fast they’ve started dressing like grown-ups!  You can definitely use this tactic too. In fact, we’ve talked about how to use emotion in promotions before, see: “I sell auto-parts” and other excuses to not run a back-to-school campaign.


(4) 1986 Canadian Zellers Commercial 

Screen Shot 2015-07-23 at 11.42.49 PM
Click to watch video.

This 1980’s T.V. Commercial uses family friendly humour in an effortless way. A fun and short video to get your creative juices going.





The 1997 and 2007 JCrew Catalog covers are a wonderful example of a campaign targeted at a different demographic: university students. Students are heading back to campus and starting the academic year. If you’ve got products that appeal to the 18-35 group (this is a broad group that needs athletic wear, camping gear, bedding, supplies, textbooks, and groceries) you can and should run promotions targeted to college and university goers.



We decided to end on this H&M catalog from 2012 because of two reasons (a) Color – Fall is a colorful and lucid time of the year, your catalogs and promotions can be full of life and vibrancy in this season without appearing tacky; and (b) The element of fun and kid-inspired-design that we saw in the first few 50’s campaigns is still useable. There are some tried and true campaign themes that never go out of style.

-Divya, with Now In Store