Staples gets an early start on back-to-school

The retailer brings a pair of comedians back to extend a new positioning into its most important sales period.

Staples is back with comedian Howie Mandel, and back to school as well, in a campaign that continues to lean into digital.

In three spots, Howie Mandel in English and Pierre-Yves Lord in French offer guidance to parents over their looming backpack, technology and school supply purchases.

The pair return from the fall “Let’s Find Out” campaign, which aimed to inform Canadians about Staples’ transformation from an easy and convenient place to get office supplies to a “working and learning company” that also offered printing, graphic design, co-working and professional development workshops.

Dave Mazzone, the VP of marketing for Staples Canada, says this is the “back to school” component of that campaign. As this is the retailer’s biggest sales period of the year, it was important to carry the message of “Let’s Find Out” forward with people like Mandel and Lord, who are highly recognizable and can drive ad recall.

Mazzone adds that Staples is in market a bit earlier than normal, informed by 2021 trends that people were shopping earlier. It also allows Staples to build frequency over time, instead of shouting over competitors closer to September.

“It’s our biggest moment of the year, and the moment we resonate most with customers,” says Mazzone, who adds that the idea was to have a series of category-specific creative. “We really want to tell stories, and we think it’s more effective for us to tell a unique story by product category, than it is to try to do it all in one spot.”

Staples’ new “working and learning” ethos, Mazzone says, is reflected in its “Back to School Guide” to this year’s products, which also shows how different product categories work together to drive a solution with the help of a range of influencers. “We’ve widened the aperture of what [consumers] are considering us for,” he maintains, adding that people are shopping more in style, design and tech than they have previously.

The campaign includes broadcast, OLV and printed flyers, though Staples is still continuing to work in a digital-first fashion, with more paid social, search and display, which it’s done every year since he began his tenure with the retailer.

Foot traffic at Staples stores has steadily growing, Mazzone says, but is still not to back to pre-lockdown levels as of yet.

The campaign is by Jackman Reinvents, AOR for Staples Canada. Jungle Media handled the media buy, with help from Staples’ internal team. Golin assisted with PR.