Snack Brands Lean Into Nostalgia this Back-to-School Season

Snack Brands Lean Into Nostalgia this Back-to-School Season

Share this:

The dog days of summer have arrived, and all around the country, parents are preparing kids for back-to-school  in just a few short weeks. For snack and specialty food brands like General Mills, Conagra, and Nestlé, it’s go time.

Despite often being overlooked during the back-to-school rush, when attention is generally focused on backpacks and pencils, sales of snacks and specialty foods rise in the summer and fall. What Black Friday is for the electronics industry, back-to-school is for the snack industry. 

Single-serving packages of chips, crackers, and cookies don’t end up in kids backpacks by chance — they arrive there thanks to the savvy marketing strategies putAmira Saleh forward by agency leads like Amira Saleh, a marketing strategist at MNI Targeted Media, a division of Dotdash Meredith. In her role, Saleh is tasked with working with top snack brands to keep their media plans fresh.

Street Fight recently caught up with Saleh to find out how some of the largest snack and specialty food brands are looking at back-to-school marketing opportunities differently this year, and learn what some of the unique challenges are for marketers working in such a specific category of CPG. Here’s what she had to say.

Q. How are snack brands looking at back-to-school marketing opportunities differently this year than in the past? 

A. One of the things brands are looking at is nostalgia marketing in CPG. Think of Barbie: What appealed to one generation often carries on to the next and this includes snacks. I mean, who doesn’t like mac and cheese? 

The priorities of the purchaser regarding ingredients may be different but the sentiment resonates. For example, 42% of millennials and Gen X who said they are shopping for children during back to school, also said they are shopping for themselves. 

Q. What can you tell me about the role that you play in helping snack brands find new digital opportunities, not just during the back-to-school season but also year-round? 

A. We lean in to answering in a moment of need and this strategy varies from generation to generation. GenAlpha influences shopping behavior by relaying their preferences to their parent or guardian. This individual, the purchaser online or in-store, will ultimately decide what they purchase and their determinants will likely include factors such as cost, value, or nutritional content. 

To get into the cart, brands need to service messaging differently to each generational cohort. GenAlpha may be on YouTube, while a millennial mom is primarily on Instagram. 

Q. How is working with a snack brand different from any other brand? What are the unique challenges there?

A. The shopper’s journey is not a linear funnel – there are a wide array of interaction and engagement points that eventually lead to a final purchase. Snack brands can inspire and engage consumers on social, for example, but ultimately need to drive them to that final shelf purchase. It’s about connecting with them across a multi-faceted journey, trying to find a crowded space with high adoption, and adding value and inspiration to their day. 

The way we think of the occasion for snacks is changing too. Many younger adults turn to snacking nearly as often as traditional meals … snacks live in a versatile space. They can be an indulgence or a main meal source as natural and higher quality ingredients are sought after by more consumers. 

Q. What can you share about some of the hidden marketing opportunities you’ve been helping brands find this back-to-school season? 

A. Like snacks in the cupboard, media plans can get stale if not refreshed. Someone may enjoy eating chips but that does not mean that’s their preferred snack food all the time. You want to rotate; it keeps it fresh and interesting. An omnichannel approach to targeting achieves this. 

Q. Beyond the targeting and the technology, what can you tell me about messaging and how you help brands discover the right messaging for their campaigns? 

A. It has been said a hundred times but it’s because it’s true: personalized messaging gets the job done. That doesn’t just mean sending personalized emails — it means serving messaging that answers the needs and priorities of individual shoppers. Am I looking for recipes? Great, then give me shoppable content that helps me create meals or if I’m looking for staple items, then give me a special offer or loyalty program.

This interview had been condensed for length and clarity.

Stephanie Miles is a journalist who covers personal finance, technology, and real estate. As Street Fight’s senior editor, she is particularly interested in how local merchants and national brands are utilizing hyperlocal technology to reach consumers. She has written for FHM, the Daily News, Working World, Gawker, Cityfile, and Recessionwire.