Prom is a lot of things – exhilarating, dramatic, memorable, stressful, and, of course, expensive. And if you’re anything like me, it was also pretty awkward.
Pictured: Life after the promposal. My date and I (far right) were set up and did not hit it off, in case that wasn’t obvious.
When I accepted a grudging invitation to my senior prom, there was no fanfare as I recall – and accordingly, no additional cost incurred. But times have changed, and while overall prom spending has declined from over $1100 per household (2013) to $919 (2015), the promposal still accounts for more than 1/3 of prom spending1. It’s clear that prom is a significant school-related spending occasion that occurs outside of the well-documented back-to-school shopping season.
The Promposal is an elaborate high school ritual where students go above and beyond, often with a large, public audience, to ask another student to go to prom with them. Although the proliferation of and access to social media may make it seem like a relatively new phenomenon, the first recorded use the word “promposal” was in the Dallas Morning News in 2001 after a few students asked their dates over the building’s loudspeaker2.
But the real turning point that brings us to the high-stakes and high-cost age of the modern promposal occurred in 2005 on the teen “reality” show, “Laguna Beach,” which aired an extravagant (and as far as this writer is concerned, ludicrous) promposal involving tow trucks and gorilla suits. Since then, US teens haven’t looked back.
While there are plenty of cute promposal ideas that are cost-effective, according to a 2015 survey by Visa, the average US teen spent $324 securing a prom date (source?). It’s official – a traditional ask (much like my aggressively lavender would-be bridesmaid gown) is no longer in fashion.
PromGirl broke out the average cost ranges across multiple spending categories. While they skew traditionally female, it paints an interesting picture –
Savvy retailers and marketers should consider how their business can be affected by this influx of cross-vertical, student-driven spending – from office and art supply retailers touting sign materials for promposals (among countless other affected verticals), to florists, to dress and tuxedo retailers and renters – and position themselves for success through increased advertising geared towards high school students (and their parents) well in advance of the late April to early May prom season.
That’s far from all! Students, parents, and teachers all drive marketing opportunities year-round through school-related spending outside of the traditional back-to-school shopping season. Check out “School Season is More than Back-to-School” for monthly insights!
1 2015 Visa Prom Spending Survey 2 The Washington Post; “A short history of the ‘promposal’; April 2014 3 PromGirl, LLC; How Much Will the Prom Cost?; 2017
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