Brand Strategy Social Media Reddit

As parents take to Reddit for back-to-school advice, here’s what marketers need to know


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

August 9, 2023 | 11 min read

The school season presents opportunities for brands to boost their recall, favorability and purchase intent among parents and young consumers on the social platform.

Reddit rendering

Reddit is creating new opportunities for brands to target parents during the back-to-school rush / Adobe Stock

New data on global Reddit users reveal that parents increasingly turn to the social site to seek product recommendations and assess purchasing decisions for the back-to-school season.

Parents’ attraction to Reddit is multifold, but it may have to do with their search for acceptance and a lack of judgment as they seek parenting and product advice. Parents may turn to Reddit because they don’t feel fully supported in their real-life communities; recent research conducted by Reddit in conjunction with consumer research firm Attest finds that 1 in 4 parents feel judged by other parents within their community. 1 in 3 say they lack honest and authentic content about parenting. 1 in 5, meanwhile, think that common challenges they face in parenting are stigmatized or seen as too taboo to discuss openly.

As a result, many turn to Reddit, where they can post and engage in content anonymously and find solidarity and support in parenting. 43% of all US Redditors are parents.

“They’re coming to Reddit for this candid and unvarnished advice – and not only advice but for recommendations. And this can be across behaviors, in terms of how to handle a tough child, or what types of products people could recommend for your child,” says Marissa Bell, an insights manager at Reddit.

Reddit’s place as a hub for parenting conversations is only growing. Per Reddit’s research with Attest, the volume of parenting discussions on the platform increased by 62% from January 2020 to February 2023. During the same period, parenting conversations on X, previously known as Twitter, rose just 14%, for comparison. Reddit now sees 140m monthly screen views across all its parenting-focused communities, like r/parenting, r/daddit and r/workingmoms.

Back-to-school is an especially critical time for parents on Reddit; from mid-May to September, the platform sees spikes in conversations concerning education. Conversations about homework and social interactions at schools, like bullying, jump from mid-August through mid-November.

Back-to-school conversations on Reddit tend to include discussions about brands, products and purchasing decisions. Tech, in particular, accounts for many of these conversations on the platform. 63% of Reddit users who are parents use the platform to seek out genuine reviews and discussions about electronics and technology. “Maybe it’s [searching for] an age-appropriate laptop or a particular gaming device for that particular age,” says Bell. Video games and gaming consoles, laptops and cell phones represent the product categories garnering the most discussion from parents on Reddit.

Other key product segments for Reddit’s parents include apparel and accessories, as well as food and beverage. 52% of parents on Reddit ask questions on the platform to inform apparel purchases for their family. Meanwhile, 45% of Redditors use the site to seek time-saving tips and tricks for school lunches and family dinner prep.

Of course, parenting conversations vary based on a number of factors, including children’s age groups. Parents seek the right products and services for their kids according to their age and specific needs. One parent in r/computers posted, “I am looking to purchase a computer or laptop for my two sons, ages 9 and 11. My 11-year-old basically wants to play games, especially Feed and Grow Fish. But my 9-year-old wants to learn how to code and also how to make his own games … I have no idea what I should be looking for! I think a laptop might work best for our house. But do I need a gaming laptop? A MacBook? A Chromebook? Help!!”

And age differences shape the overarching themes of parenting conversations on the platform.

“The biggest thing that we’re finding for parents within the middle school [category] is puberty – their children are changing time of their life, and they’re trying to navigate all of the things that happen during this awkward and confusing phase, which intersects with the new types of clothing that people need to buy, or the new types of CPG products that these children will need. And these parents are navigating where they get all of these products … as well as changing family dynamics that are happening based off of these broader changes,” explains Bell.

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When teens reach high school, parents’ focus often shifts. “There’s a huge intersection between high schoolers trying to figure out who they are in this world, what they’re interested in, what they’re doing – and navigating what that would look like in the next phase of their education,” Bell says. “We have a very diverse college and technical school education programming communities on Reddit, and you have both the parents and teenagers using Reddit to [learn about] their options in their next phase of life. And, of course, on the product side, it’s about what they need to succeed.”

Similar conversations about teens’ passions and hobbies blossom on Reddit, with parents and teens convening in subreddits to discuss everything from computing programming to crocheting and tarot card reading.

According to Reddit’s research, independence also becomes a key theme for parents and teens around this time. “How can you ensure that your high schoolers – and maybe even middle schoolers – are prepared for this next phase of life, from doing their own laundry to driving lessons to cooking?” Bell says.

These discussion themes, which evolve as children grow older, are chock-full of tips and hacks, questions and advice-seeking, product recommendations and reviews. The opportunities for brands to weigh in becomes natural.

As Bell puts it: “It’s the intersection between parenting advice for understanding children at different ages of their life … and, ‘What are the best products for my child at X, Y and Z age?’”

And the back-to-school season offers particularly fertile grounds for brands to engage with Reddit’s robust and diverse parenting communities. “Back-to-school is a time that highlights some new behaviors that are especially relevant to marketers because parents become shoppers more than ever,” says Will Cady, Reddit's global brand ambassador.

Kantar research for Reddit finds that parent-aged users report a 17% lift in brand recall and an 8% increase in brand favorability after exposure to a brand’s ads on the platform. Plus, the likelihood that a parent-aged user takes action – such as considering a product or making a purchase – increases by 7% after seeing a brand’s ads on Reddit.

In what Cady sees as a successful example of a brand making the most of back-to-school opportunities on Reddit, Intel recently launched a campaign advertising a new laptop that targets audiences of both college-aged students and their parents. “It’s very elegant in terms of creative that threads the needle between two different types of people that are going to be in consideration for this product – both the college student themself, and the parent that is shopping for that college student,” says Cady. “The creative speaks to the culture of Reddit and to college kids. It uses ‘oddly satisfying’ and a lot of the vernacular you would expect in this space. And it also focuses on the features [of the product]. And on one side, it talks about doodling, having fun [with the laptop], and the cultural experience of being a college kid. And then, on the other hand, it talks about [using the product] to be a high achiever.”

Other brands, like Noosa Yoghurt, have targeted parents on Reddit with clever, outside-the-box approaches to marketing. During the back-to-school season in 2021, Noosa launched a ‘flavor poll’ that encouraged fan engagement on Reddit, ultimately leading to a 49% increase in brand recall and a 30% boost in brand favorability among exposed audiences. Even better, the brand saw purchase intent spike 39% – a figure 15 times higher than is typically seen in the vertical.

In the last year, Reddit has sought to expand its tools for marketers, helping them to make the most of every campaign. Among those is a new keyword targeting offering. According to Cady, it’s been especially valuable for brands looking to make the most of seasonal opportunities like back-to-school. “It’s really brought to the forefront the idea of the phrase ‘for my kid,’” he explains. “When you think about the contextual elements of Reddit, there are computer subreddits, there’s stargazing, nutrition, all of these different things – these communities bound by one hobby or passion. But they’re not necessarily places marketers would think about reaching parents in, until you add the phrase ‘for my kid’ for targeting your ads. Especially with back-to-school, it’s like, ‘I need a computer for my kid,’ ‘I need to figure out what to pack for lunch for my kid.’”

He suggests that there are countless brand opportunities on Reddit for marketers who take advantage of keyword targeting to reach parents in critical decision-making moments like back-to-school.

“The parent is a really unique kind of shopper for marketers to think about because they just want to get it done quickly; they just want to figure it out. But in that short window of trying to figure out the right product for their kid, they’re possibly determining somebody’s lifetime brand loyalty,” Cady says. “Kids might learn, ’this is the kind of car that my dad loves, so I’m going to be a Chevy or a Ford or a Dodge driver for the rest of my life’ because of this one moment. Or, ’I’m gonna go Apple or Android because of the first time that my parent gets that phone for me.’”

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