For backpack brand JanSport, back-to-school season is typically its busiest time of the year. Needless to say, back-to-school in the fall of 2020 is looking unlike any other previous year. While schools and universities across the country grapple with how to educate again, JanSport has had to adjust its messaging toward its primarily Gen Z audience.
“One of the things we’ve learned over the last few months is that we can pivot with what our consumer is going through,” JanSport’s senior director of marketing, Monica Rigali, told Adweek. “We really didn’t want to come out again and tell [consumers] that we have durable backpacks in every color of the spectrum. It was really important for us to let Gen Z know that we want to hear about them, we want to know what they’re going through, and we want to be an ally.”
After conducting consumer research, JanSport found that the issue of mental health kept rising to the top of Gen Z’s concerns. “What we’re learning about this generation is they are facing some of the most challenging issues of our time, and mental health is seen as an overarching theme,” Rigali said.
In response, JanSport has launched a new campaign called “Lighten the Load” focused on connecting young people with the tools they need to unpack the mental health crisis.
While the campaign has been in the works since January, new social issues have continued to arise that have put a further strain on Gen Z’s mental health, making it even more relevant. “Our purpose is to be a true and trusted ally to young people, no matter what they’re going through, so we really looked at this campaign through the lens of that purpose,” Rigali said.
Every Wednesday in May (which is Mental Health Awareness Month), JanSport hosted a live online conversation with a mental health expert touching on topics like isolation, compassion fatigue, uncertainty and family relationships. JanSport has since leaned on these relationships with experts to get Gen Z into accessible, no-cost environments for mental health support.
For phase two of the campaign, which launched this week, Jansport worked with Los Angeles-based agency Haymaker and producer Ruby Pseudo to create a series of original films to provide young people with a platform to have conversations surrounding mental health. Each unscripted film showcases an individual offering a glimpse into their mental health journey and insights on what they’re doing to lighten the load.
“At the end of the day, we want a young person who watches one of these films to sit back and say, ‘That’s how I feel, and I need to tell someone about it,’ and hopefully find that first step in taking a journey that will help them,” Rigali said.
JanSport plans to continue the campaign through July and into August with four additional live sessions. “There have been so many changes both from a media perspective and a cultural perspective that we’re looking at it week by week and adapting,” she added. “We want this generation to know that we’re going to be there for them, we’re not going to be tone-deaf, and we’re going to serve up content and opportunities to speak with them in a way that’s relevant to them.”