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Kmart goes Viral with “Ship My Pants” ad

kmart goes viral with ship my pants campaign

Kmart has just released an ingenious advertisement that has the entire online community buzzing. The commercial features shocked, yet pleasantly surprised Kmart shoppers who learn shipping is available on all of their products. The commercial comically highlights the ease of shipping everything from pants to drawers to even beds. One shopper screams, “I just shipped my pants!” followed by another shopper who screams, “I just shipped my drawers!” After watching the video, you’ll likely do a double take upon hearing these customers say “shipped”, as it sounds strikingly similar to…well, I’ll let you figure that one out. The play-on-words is brilliant. It’s so simple, yet so effective.

In just 2 weeks, the YouTube video has amassed 15 million views and 73,000 Likes. And they are only just starting to roll out their TV spots this week. Therefore, all of this amazing traction is due to organic/word-of-mouth communication. That brings me to my next point. I don’t care how much money you put into traditional advertising. Regardless of budget, if you have great content, people will do the work for you — thus is the case with this Kmart ad. If you’ve ever doubted the power of a solid piece of viral communication, this advertisement will surely influence your perspective.

ship my pants ad, kmart, ad agencies in maI’ll be honest; before my friend Dave showed me this advertisement, I said to him, “What? Kmart is still open?” Between Walmart, JCPenney, Kohl’s, Sears and the other big-box general merchandise retailers, you never hear anything about Kmart anymore. It’s been widely perceived as a dying brand and hasn’t necessarily been on the top of everybody’s radar. When the retailer rolled out with its “Ship My Pants Video”, it took a lot of people by surprise (including me).

Andrew Stein, Kmart’s vice president and CMO, told Time Magazine that the company wasn’t trying to make a viral ad. The goal was to just create a funny, compelling commercial that promoted the service.

I actually found that statement quite sad. If any other big-box retailer like Kmart had an idea for an ad like this, they would have recognized its huge potential to go viral. Kmart on the other hand, through the words of Andrew Stein, didn’t have any expectations because they have been such a snooze of a retail brand for as long as I can remember. It’s as if Andrew himself lacked faith in his own brand. Hopefully this momentum kicks all the higher ups at Kmart in the ass and shows them that they should never give up – that the success of any company relies on its ability to adapt to the changing environment. One day you can be the top dog, the next day you can be at the bottom of the pit — and vice versa.

The  Dying  Brand Trend

It’s interesting how dying brands tend to transition their efforts to edgy humor to revive themselves. Take for example K-Swiss and their viral ads that used comedian Kenny Powers. The video used profanity that no other major brand had ever dared to use, and put K-Swiss top-of-mind again for consumers. Perhaps this trend indicates that dying brands are more apt to take risks in order to revive themselves because they have “less to lose” and “everything to gain”, compared to other bigger brands who would never think of taking such a risk.

Now, I’m surely not saying that Kmart will be the next Walmart because of one successful viral ad that has brought them an enormous amount of attention. It is, however, a start. In order to continue to grow, Kmart needs to continue to strengthen their in-store experience and the design of their brick and mortar locations.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem like it will happen anytime in the near future, as former executives quoted in a recent Yahoo! Finance story describe Eddie Lampert (Kmart CEO) as someone who hates to spend money even “to clean up dirty stores and repair potholed parking lots.” Perhaps “Ship My Pants” was a campaign engineered to steer shoppers away from Kmart’s dying physical stores, and toward the one area they think they can grow; online sales.

What  Kmart  Did  Right

These are some communication ideas to consider when trying to get your own campaign to make a splash.

  1. Take risks. Simply giving your consumers what they want is a shortcut to predictability, mediocrity and invisibility. Think outside the box and challenge yourself. Become a pacesetter and make something extraordinary.
  2. Don’t overtly sell. “Ship My Pants” blends their service into the ad beautifully. Think of all the leading brands that just talk about themselves on social media in today’s day and age – that’s right, none. I’m a strong supporter of only talking about yourself 10% of the time, engaging with others about what matters to them 90% of the time and listening 100% of the time.
  3. Test concepts on social media. This ad was initially launched solely on YouTube and skyrocketed from there. What wasn’t initially created as a big-budget campaign, may have just taken a huge 180 turn.

Moving  Forward

Kmart will need to do a lot more than just produce cheeky ads like “Ship My Pants” in order to stay afloat in this industry. With that being said, this viral campaign is surely invigorating. Hopefully the right moves will be done internally (i.e. fixing customer experience etc.) so they can effectively ride off all of this great momentum. Ideally, ads like this are more effective when it’s the other way around, such as already having a kick ass product/service – because eventually this buzz will die down.

Kmart should also focusing on integrating this campaign into print, a microsite, billboards, social media, mobile and events to really drive the message home. Integration and interactive customer engagement is essential. More than ever before, media is getting filled with an increasing amount of clutter and distractions. If brands can delight their customers enough with things such as a killer ad campaign, customer service or an in-store experience, that customer is more likely to become a brand advocate that will promote your brand to their friends and family. In today’s digital age, this is one of the most effective ways of breaking through the clutter. I mean, look at Kmart – it broke through for me and almost made me “Ship My Pants” laughing.

What are your thoughts on Kmarts recent ad campaign? Is this a genius idea or did they take it a little too far?