Will ‘Shipping Its Pants’ Work for Kmart?

Discussion
Apr 17, 2013

From a modern day advertiser’s standpoint, there’s almost nothing better than one of your commercials going viral online. The most recent and obvious case of a spot going viral is Kmart’s "Ship My Pants" spot. It promotes the retailer’s free shipping offer for consumers who want to buy a product and can’t find it in the store.

Since being loaded on YouTube, the 35-second spot has racked up more than 11 million views, not to mention all those seeing it on other pages. Another YouTube page, "Ship My Pants’ Kmart Ad: For The 12-Year-Old In All Of Us," had nearly 700,000 views of its own at this writing.

The spot’s undisguised bathroom humor involves a sales associate letting a male customer know that he can "ship his pants" right there in the store. The man’s wife and son are also excited about being able to ship their pants, as are an older couple, the woman saying, "I just shipped my pants and found it very convenient." Other shoppers follow, with one happy about having just shipped her (dresser) drawers and another pleased that he just shipped his bed.

[Image: Ship My Pants]

There’s little doubt the spot, which has more than 52,000 thumbs-up and only about 2,300 thumbs-down votes, has been received favorably by the overwhelming number of people watching it on YouTube. Nearly 37,000 have “Liked” the spot on Facebook. A Google news search under “ship my pants” turned up more than 52,000 results for coverage of the commercial created by Draftfcb Chicago.

The buzz around the spot is a victory of sorts for Kmart, a chain that has received mostly negative press going back well before its merger with Sears in 2005. Whether this one spot translates into actual sales for the company is yet to be seen. One thing, however, is clear. The humorous spot represents a change in direction for the chain’s commercials. The question is whether it represents a change in long-term branding for Kmart or is simply a one-and-done tactic.

Are there common elements among commercials that go viral online? If you were in charge of Kmart’s marketing, what would you do to follow up on the success of the “Ship My Pants” spot? Would you try to upgrade the humor?

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21 Comments on "Will ‘Shipping Its Pants’ Work for Kmart?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

The first time anyone probably laughed and had fun with Kmart since, “What are the 3 words a Jewish Princess never hears? Attention Kmart Shoppers.” If they can do [another] without being too obvious about it being a sequel, definitely keep it up. May give KM a whole new image.

Mike Osorio
Guest
Mike Osorio
4 years 7 months ago

It is a clever spot that will certainly get people talking about Kmart. Unfortunately, since the press coverage has been deservedly bad for this mediocre retailer for more than a decade, most of the discussions will not be about shopping at the store. It will sound more like, “Gosh, Kmart? Didn’t they go out of business years ago?”

Bob Phibbs
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Let’s be honest, they’re not talking about ship. We’re watching some granny talk about how comfortable it was to sh** her pants. This is amazingly bad for building awareness IMHO because I associate shi**ing your pants now with Kmart.

Not sure how many teenage boys will buy from them but this is what desperation looks like. See how many “likes” and “shares” we can get about sh**. This isn’t marketing the brand, it’s marketing how anyone could put that up.

Look for sales at Kmart to be like a dirty diaper, unchanged.

Max Goldberg
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

As the article states, “The buzz around the spot is a victory of sorts for Kmart.” Let’s leave it at that. There is no formula for creating a video that goes viral. It’s a combination of factors that meld together and catch the public’s fancy.

Ken Lonyai
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

On a number of occasions, I’ve put my opinion in writing that you can’t plan for something to go viral. There’s endless number of companies that claim they can create viral videos but I don’t believe any making the claims have delivered. Then, on April 10, Jonah Berger wrote a great piece in the Huff Post that trumps anything I’ve said. (See, “Viral’s Secret Formula“)

Still, I think Kmart is riding a fluke that their agency won’t repeat and that won’t have any real effect on their bottom line.

Mark Burr
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

These folks still have roughly 1,200 to 1,300 stores? Really?

Okay, so up the number of views to 700,001. I had to look. Call it curiosity. The ad may have some level of humor, however, it is really a negative about a sub-par retailer.

It might have been a whole lot better if it was, “You don’t have to ship your pants! We have them.” The problem is, they don’t. They just said so.

While cute and somewhat humorous to a seventh grader, it is all about a negative. What was it that Mom used to say? “If you don’t have something good to say…”

Ryan Mathews
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Yes, most commercials that go viral are dumb and appeal to the banal element that lives like a psychic cancer at the heart of the American soul.

If I were at Kmart, my followup would be to find a new agency that could get me customers and not just YouTube hits.

The answer to the final question is that I’d have to find some humor first, then I might think about upgrading it. This ad is just loathsome.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Steve Knox from P&G has given a great Webinar on how to create buzz with videos including understanding the truth of the brand, understanding what schema or expectations are in play, and disrupting the schema. Creating buzz is the first challenge in making people aware of the product. The next step is to engage the consumer and creating advocacy.

After the commercial Kmart needs follow up in stores and with more people talking about receiving their pants.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

We are not that psychic that we can predict the future with any accuracy except when it comes to Kmart. They have been in the tank so long that few will see this as anything but a clever ad to view on YouTube. As I was reading this I asked myself, where is there a Kmart near my house? I don’t know the answer.

David Zahn
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Common elements to things going viral:

1) having an element of surprise

2) telling a story that others can relate to or see themselves in the scenario

3) speaking to a “universal truth” about us

4) being entertaining (humor or “touching us”)

5) Feeling “real” to us and not staged, scripted, set-up (as if “that could really happen” or “it did happen”)

What would I do as a follow up? Hopefully watch my share rise, volume increase, and profit roll in. (Hey, I can dream, can’t I?)

In terms of upgrading the humor, I would actually NOT use a heavy on humor approach (it becomes derivative or expected). I would appeal to one of the other aspects and communicate directly to the shopper.

And,  I admit it — I didn’t want to laugh, but I did.

Steve Montgomery
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Humor seems to be a common element of what makes ads go viral. The issue here is the level of humor. As others have noted, this ad is using a relatively junior level of humor which can cut both ways. I certainly don’t see this as winner with an aging population.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
4 years 7 months ago
Humor, regardless of taste, will invariably go viral. Unfortunately, humor is not enough to deliver traffic to a retailer. While the brand will receive recognition, the sophomoric humor and association with the phrase is not a desired attribute for the brand — and it overshadows the message. Kmart had a huge opportunity to build a brand during the holiday season when the kindness and generosity of strangers highlighted its lay-a-away program. Instead, the opportunity not only died but other retailers benefited from it. Humor aside, I’m not clear on how shipping of unavailable goods is a selling point to Kmart consumers — I feel it’s irrelevant. I could be wrong on my perception, but herein lies the biggest problem for Kmart: Consumers don’t know Kmart anymore and the spot doesn’t tell them why anyone would ship low cost items home when they can go to Walmart or Target and get similar products. If I was in charge of the brand, I would focus on branding Kmart, re-introducing my brand to consumers and finding a role… Read more »
Lee Kent
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

OK, after watching the video, I have to change my thinking on this. Before the viewing, I was of the opinion that the humor in the ad was not in line with the brand’s image. I was wrong! Yep, you heard that right — but I won’t repeat it. 🙂

This was spot on for Kmart. We saw the right demographic buying work clothes, furniture, etc and with humor that was just north of being “raunchy” (if you know what I mean).

Now what are the next steps for Kmart? Make sure they can deliver this level of customer service. That’s what the ad is all about and not necessarily what Kmart is currently known for. Make it work!

Shep Hyken
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could find the common elements that would guarantee a video would go viral? When you figure it out, let me know!

Seriously, there are a couple commonalities that seem to run throughout the “videos gone viral.” One is that the video may tug at an emotion. The other is that the video may have humor. By the way, they are seldom combined. And humor seems to trump heart-felt emotion.

The creative folks who did “Ship My Pants” have a great opportunity to do a sequel. Looking forward to seeing what they come up with.

James Tenser
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Because I’m afflicted with a lowbrow sense of humor, this add made me chuckle a little. Once I thought about it further, however, the conclusion was inescapable: I ain’t buyin’ that ship.

Brian Kelly
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

Short form funny goes viral — not always. Potentially, awareness goes up and might drive traffic. What matters is her shopping experience. That feedback would determine my next step. Or as we like to say, “retail ain’t for sissies.”

Li McClelland
Guest
Li McClelland
4 years 7 months ago

There will be some people who are offended, I’m sure. But I’ll wager that most who see it will not be. Both as a marketer and as a consumer, I love it. Frankly, I am in awe that their ad agency came up with such a potent way to articulate their “come back to Kmart and, if we don’t have the size or item you came in for in-store, we will find it and ship it out to you with no hassle.”

So very often clever and expensive ad campaigns get too clever and the marketing point they are trying to make gets lost in the cleverness. Not so with this ad where the main point can’t possibly be missed!

I have not shopped a Kmart for a long time largely due to their assortment and stocking issues. They have many, many problems to overcome. I’m pretty sure I will stop in to one in the near future, though, just in appreciation that they have not rolled over and given up.

George Anderson
Guest
4 years 7 months ago

“We knew our video was clever and engaging. Kmart is not afraid to have fun and if the video made our members, laugh or smile, then it was mission accomplished,” Shannelle Armstrong-Fowler, director, public relations at Sears Holdings, told RetailWire. “Going forward, look for more examples of content that will resonate with our members as part of our social strategy.”

Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
4 years 7 months ago

I’m surprised at so many negative comments. I thought the spot was great! The fact that it’s gone viral is creating awareness which is the first thing that needs to be done. Will it increase sales? Perhaps. It will likely also get the younger generation at least interested in Kmart and possibly willing to walk through the doors? Kids view Kmart as an old lady’s store. This could do a lot to change that view. If they keep it up, they may do well towards generating interest. For those who think it’s a fluke, I’d say, give the marketing team a chance. They did well this time, no reason to think they can’t do it again. Good job Kmart!

Jason Williams
Guest
Jason Williams
4 years 7 months ago

When is the last time “Kmart” was uttered in a conversation between consumers? Much less between 10s of thousands of consumers. A viral ad won’t necessarily turn into a big increase of foot traffic in the stores, but in many ways, this was still a big success for Kmart.

Christopher Krywulak
Guest
Christopher Krywulak
4 years 7 months ago

This ad is simply an ingenious pun. And one that works on an omni-channel level (connecting in-store shopping experiences with the convenience of online shopping and home delivery). It’s a hilarious way to get the word out virally, and communicate the value offered by this new Kmart home delivery option.

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