Staples Touts BTS 'Serenity'

Cyndi Loza
Associate Editor, Path to Purchase Institute
Cyndi Loza profile picture

Staples’ latest marketing campaign positions the retailer as “the back-to-school specialty store” and promises a serene, stress-free shopping experience this season. 

In a 30-second TV spot, school supplies slowly move in a quasi-synchronized dance while a soothing voice encourages consumers to “breathe. Let the back-to-school shopping wash over you like a warm summer wind. Now visualize getting your entire list for less. The items slowly drifting from your mind. There's no back-to-school stress, only school supply serenity — thanks to Staples, the back-to-school specialty store.” Similar, shorter versions of the TV spot were posted on the retailer’s YouTube channel and Facebook page. (See a video below.)

"Staples has a unique competitive advantage in that we specialize in school supplies all year-round, not just July through September," Christine Mallon, the office supply chain’s vice president of retail marketing, told AdAge

The TV spot spotlighted products from Newell Brands' Sharpie and Hallmark Cards' Crayola. However, for the most part, items depicted in the ad were either brand agnostic or private label SKUs such as notebooks, pencils, glue and backpacks. Store brand school supplies and apparel also received the spotlight via YouTube and Facebook videos promising "patterns with personality" or "exclusive designs." 

"Staples always offers a diverse mix of items to reflect every student’s style and personality, from exciting patterns and on-trend animal prints to sophisticated and stylish accents," the office supply chain said in a media release. "Exclusive patterns across all Staples brand product categories allow easy mixing-and-matching of backpacks, lunchboxes, composition books, folders, calculators, binders, and more."

In stores, ceiling signs spotlight private label llama- and shark-patterned backpacks, water bottles and lunch bags.

Staples for Students scholarship sweeps

On the heels of similar partnerships with pop singers Nick Jonas, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga in 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively, Staples has turned to actress Jessica Alba this year to help solicit donations for classroom projects via crowdfunding platform Alba stars alongside Charles Best, founder and chief executive officer, in a Facebook live video encouraging shoppers to browse local school projects to fund through the organization’s website and donate to at their local Staples stores. Staples will match donations raised during the back-to-school season.

“What I love about Staples is they have incredibly accommodating in-store specialists that [help] parents get their kids ready for the school year,” Alba, who is also a mom of three, said in a media release. “Back to school is a special time for my kids because it signifies a milestone in their lives. It makes it even more meaningful that Staples is partnering with because my children get to experience an important lesson in giving back while we shop for their back-to-school essentials.”

As part of the campaign, the retailer is also running a "Staples for Students" sweepstakes awarding one grand-prize winner a $50,000 scholarship and four first-place winners with a $25,000 scholarship. Consumers enter from June 24 through Sept. 15 by making a $25 purchase and submitting their online order number or code found on their in-store receipt via Melville, NY-based Don Jagoda Associates administers. 

In stores, stanchion sign headers tout the sweeps, directing shoppers to the promotional page. A display ad within, a July 31 Facebook update, as well as multiple summer circular features and email blasts support. 

BTS E-Commerce 

In other digital activity, the retailer is shining a spotlight on its one-hour "buy online, pick up in-store" (BOPIS) service during the BTS season. Similar to last year, the service is touted via circular features and a display ad directing shoppers to an e-commerce page listing all eligible products. 

Elsewhere on, a "Back to School Center" page offers school supplies, grouping them by grade level. The page also contains: 

  • the aforementioned "pattern with personality" video, and 
  • a display ad spotlighting Chromebook laptops and directing shoppers to an e-commerce page listing Chromebook laptops from Acer, HP and Asus. 

Staples this year appears to have removed a function within its mobile application that allowed shoppers to upload a photo of their school shopping list to automatically add the items to their online cart within 24-48 hours. The function rolled out as a beta test in 2016 and was heavily promoted during last year’s back-to-school season. 

Returning BTS Activity 

In other promotional activity, Staples is reprising its “110% Price Match Guarantee” during back-to-school season, promising consumers an additional 10% off the difference between Staples’ prices and its competitors’ prices at the time of purchase. As is the case for the retailer’s year-round Price Match Guarantee, Amazon and any retailers selling products in both retail stores and online qualify. Circular features and in-store endcap headers support.

The retailer's back-to-school marketing plan also included radio spots, display ads on websites such as, and, for the first time according to AdAge, ads at cinemas. Employing Staples' light blue scheme during BTS season, account-specific displays from Newell Brand's Expo and Pilot Corp.'s flagship round out the effort. For a complete gallery of BTS activity at Staples, click here.