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Kohl's brands itself in pink

March 20, 2014

Those who have opted-in to get e-mails from Kohl's are used to a steady barrage of X percent off messages from the retailer. Just about everything that comes from the chain shouts sale, sale, sale. That's what makes the chain's "Wink of Pink" commercial unusual.

[Image: Kohl’s Pink

The spot was created by Peterson Milla Hooks, an agency that worked with Target from the 1990s until 2011. It is also the agency that created Kohl's "Holiday Surprise" Christmas commercial that showed a couple decorating the home of an elderly neighbor.

According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report, it was the positive reaction to the Christmas spot that made the chain realize it could do brand advertising in addition to its typical sales promotion pitches.

"It's all in the appropriate doses," Michelle Gass, Kohl's chief customer officer, told the Journal Sentinel, "but sprinkling in that side — call it the heart of the brand while you're still doing the head of the brand — is something that we saw really work for us during that holiday time period."


Discussion Questions:

What is your assessment of Kohl's "Wink of Pink" commercial? Will Kohl's branding spots work in conjunction with its typical pricing messages or detract from them?

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

Do you agree or disagree that the "Holiday Surprise" and "Wink of Pink" commercials are effective brand messages for Kohl's?


Found it funny that "KOHL's" was more boldly displayed at the beginning picture of "blah," then demurely in pastel pink in the end. The middle is sweet and reminds me of the annual shopping trip with mom to buy that special frilly Easter dress. However, overall, I was not left with a compelling story or association with Kohl's to assert a strong branding message in comparison to the "Holiday Surprise" spot.


I don't understand what "Get Your Pink On" means, so the point of this commercial was lost on me. I guess it means you can find pink clothes and accessories at Kohl's. While this commercial does not appear to be effective to me, it is a good idea to mix branding messages with coupon messages. If a company only send coupon messages, consumers get trained to never want to purchase anything at full price. In addition their only perception is that the outlet stands for sales.

Using brand advertising to keep the brand's promise clear while having some sales creates a balance of reinforcing image while providing value. Finding the appropriate balance is a challenge and needs to be assessed for each company and brand. I do not think this commercial helps create the balance, but the idea of using branding advertising should be pursued.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

I don't think it works all that well. For one thing, pink is an over-branded color -- everything from insulation to the fight against breast cancer. Given the popularity of the latter at retail, I think a clear brand message may be lost.

Since I don't like the idea, I don't think it will help their price impression all that much.

Color me -- cynical.

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Ryan Mathews, Founder, ceo, Black Monk Consulting

Something informational is always preferred to the usual ads, however, the major fashion magazines are touting cobalt blue, so I don't think Kohl's is on target. I never think of Kohl's as a fashion leader. The quality is poor and the styles are about three years behind.

Kate Blake, Social Media Manager, Take Five with Kate Blake

Advertisers need to capture the attention of their audience. That means needing to stand out from the noise of other ads, but not be so far out there that their customer base not only tunes them out, but take counter actions.

In this case, this advertising appears to speak about turning your humdrum life into a more exciting one and Kohl's is the one to deliver. The transition from blah to pink was interesting - as if to validate to people that their life is not much fun right now BUT you have the power to change it! It's a lifestyle message of fun and happiness with life as a stage and Kohl's as the joy enabler.

Target is a company that has been able to use this format in their ads quite successfully. The "Wink of Pink" is an attempt to leverage the successful Target formula.

My sense is this spot does not harm the brand or price image. Will they build on this or will it be a one-time effort? Consumers will determine if it sticks or not.

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Mohamed Amer, Global Head of Strategic Communications, Consumer Industries, SAP

I wish I could say I like it, but I can't because I don't. Seems it is tagging onto the breast cancer awareness program. if this is the intent, I am opposed to what I see as interference with an important retailing program.

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Ed Rosenbaum, CEO, The Customer Service Rainmaker, Rainmaker Solutions

While the spot doesn't promote the discounts, it does have a direct tie with the promotions to following print, email, etc. The commercial has an immediate purpose: to promote the spring (pink) items in store. In that way it's not solely a pure branding spot. More branding light with a heads-up that spring is here and it's time to get into Kohl's to get Easter or spring clothing. I think it is a good spot for their intended purposes.

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Larry Negrich, Director, Business Development, TXT Retail

What did I like about the ad? I liked that they covered a variety of ages and types. It was happy. It had a nice feel and tune. A good experience.

Now why was this good for Kohl's? It gave life to a brand that is not about current, quality styles. Made me think about going to Kohl's to see if something is different there.

Problem is, if I go to the store and don't have a new experience, the ad is lost for me. And, if they continue in this direction, I would suggest they do several color spots all with different appeal. How about "It's not easy being Green." Oops been done before, but you get the idea. And that's my 2 cents.

Lee Kent, Sharing Insights for Success in Retail, YourRetailAuthority

My initial thought - before seeing it - was, this is about pink and shopping...it's not going to be a "guy thing." And I was right; but after reading Camille's and Kate's comments, it appears it isn't a "girl thing" either, so it seems the two groups it doesn't "work" for are males an females.


I initially thought this was going to be a tie-in to breast cancer month (which I view as having seriously muted its impact through over merchandising). But the Kohl's ad was really not that.

I will say that almost every little girl on the planet seems to go through a passing phase where she gravitates to the color pink for everything (bikes, shoes, hats, beads, hair ties, sheets and pillowcases, etc). But this ad? I really don't get it.


You can be sure that the agency did significant testing of the concept on focus groups who ultimately cheered the idea. So the few of us deciding its merits - especially if we are not their target consumer - is presumptuous at best. But, this is meant for our opinions so I respect that.
So, my opinion: The issue isn't whether I personally like the spot or not - I leave that to the target consumer to decide.

The real question was whether a branding effort by Kohl's works aside their predominantly promotional DNA. My answer is yes. Kohl's does have a very strong following of customers who appreciate their moderate brand fashions at great promo pricing. This spot is aimed at strengthening that bond. To make a promo minded consumer feel better about their shopping choices. As long as it isn't overdone, it will be effective.

Mike Osorio, Senior VP Organizational Change Management, DFS Group

It should help augment their awareness in the marketplace. It seems to support what they are already doing to promote their company to the consumer.

Tom Borg, Business Expert, Tom Borg Consulting, LLC

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