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It’s September, which means that kids nationwide have deflated their pool toys, packed up their lunchboxes and headed back to school. It also means that American retailers just concluded the pivotal back-to-school shopping season. Back to school mobile marketing is crucial for success.

Early numbers indicate that this was a weak year overall – which means that with fewer dollars up for grabs, retailers had to work extra hard and market extra smart in order to come out ahead.

Two particularly interesting back-to-school campaigns caught our eye this year, and we wanted to give them some digital ink here on Mobile Demystified:

JCPenney’s teen website was part of the company’s broader “Schooled in Style: Smart Looks for Less” multichannel campaign for the back-to-school season. Knowing how much teens love their cell phones, the retailer made mobile outreach a central part of the program.

Customers opted-in to receive text messages highlighting back-to-school sales and special offers. In addition to using mobile, JCPenney also engaged with customers on Facebook with fun engagement initiatives like online scavenger hunts.

Another marketer taking full advantage of SMS was textbook renter and Waterfall Mobile client Chegg.com.

Chegg recently launched a groundbreaking campaign to engage college students by providing a mobile-based ISBN (international standard book number) lookup service. This fun, immediate utility, which is powered by Msgme, helps students compare book prices and check availability in seconds.

All the details on the program are available here.

“Mobile is a great platform to promote Chegg because it gives immediate access to our more than 2.4 million title textbook collection and savings at the consumer’s fingertips,” Tina Couch, VP of public relations at Chegg.com, told Mobile Marketer recently. “As consumers rely more on their mobile devices, Chegg’s partnership with mobile provides another way to reach the consumer’s needs and help the company grow.”

It may be too late for brands to inject mobile elements into this year’s back-to-school campaigns, but it definitely is time to be thinking about “Black Friday” and general holiday efforts – because those windows are just around the corner.

And it’s never too early to start planning on what to do next year to get a piece of the back-to-school pie, which hopefully will be much larger as the nation’s economic recovery continues.

And for those kids stuck in classrooms learning algebra right now: our sympathies.

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