Brand Story: Kmart goes balls out this holiday

Photo courtesy of Fashionista.com

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So many questions here. And oh, so many puns. I’ll go for the low hanging fruit (ahem) by saying that this TV spot by Kmart was definitely ballsy (wink). I mean… it’s retail, it’s the holiday sales season. It’s men playing music with their genitals. And it’s definitely getting attention. Big box retailers rely on Q4 to bring in a sizable chunk of annual sales and many online retailers even declare lockdown on site updates to prevent any possible glitch that would impede the flurry of expected holiday sales. So, coming out of the gate with this (pre-turkey, mind you) is risky:

Once a brand pulls a below-the-belt stunt like this the next logical stop is a thorough examination of their social media:

Kmart Facebook Page Cover Photo

….aaaand there’s the disconnect. Where are the men? Who are they? Where are the bells/balls? Opportunity #1, missed. The first image I’m greeted with is a happy smiling wholesome family complete with a floating photoshopped baby and flanked by “Layaway Every Day” messaging – an accurate visual representation of exactly the type of family complaining about your ad in the comments below. Twitter, Google+: same story. The preceding posts and graphics are corporate and safe, inspiring little conversation or engagement. You know a hoard of new and energetic viewers will be flooding to your social pages organically, and due to the paid promotion (at least on Twitter), so why not spend the months prior building up your social media strategy to support it? Opportunity #2, missed. Out of curiosity, I navigate to the main site and see very weak, if any, on-site tie in. No Joe Boxer, no obvious call out for the #ShopYourWay program, no dancing men. Opportunity #3, missed. Where is the witty, risky brand responsible for that TV ad?

I will always appreciate a brand’s effort to show personality and lead with a sense of humor. And I am usually a proponent of controversy, especially when a brand willingly compromises their reputation during the holidays – by far and away the most crucial opportunity for retailers to woo customers. The greater the risk, the greater the reward and no one can deny that the commercial itself is entertaining and comical. However, when judging its impact as a campaign it’s important to consider this ad (and this risk) in the big-picture “brandscape”. Is this authentic? Last year, Kmart suffered a 3.7% loss in Q4 and given the sad state of their parent company, Sears Holdings Corp., the forgotten brand has been dancing on the brink of bankruptcy for quite a while. So I arrive at my conclusion: this controversial last-ditch effort does not fit within a larger scheme to re-brand Kmart and therefore this stand alone video will cause a stir in the blogosphere, but will likely do little to ignite stagnant sales. I look forward to seeing what is to come from this and whether they will keep this holiday season spicy with more ads – let’s hope. I’ll keep collecting puns in the meantime…

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