When Going Viral Goes Wrong
Having an ad go viral may be the dream of ad managers and their agencies, but being viewed a gazillion times on YouTube and elsewhere is no guarantee that views will turn into sales. A case in point is Kmart, which has produced not just one, but three videos that have gone viral this year.
The first of three, the chain’s "Ship My Pants" spot, was the subject of a RetailWire discussion in April. At the time, sentiment was split on how consumers would view Kmart and whether it would move them to shop in the chain’s stores or on its website. In a poll with the story, 45 percent said they believed the commercial would have a "very" or "somewhat positive" effect on consumers’ perceptions of the chain, while 17 percent believed consumers would view Kmart more negatively. Thirty-five percent said the spot would not have any effect, positively or negatively, on people’s perceptions.
While many thought the ad would help create buzz for Kmart, many also said the reality of run-down stores and the other ills that affect the company would reinforce the adage that the worst thing that can happen to a bad product is great advertising.
James Tenser, principal, VSN Strategies and a RetailWire BrainTrust panelist, wrote: "Because I’m afflicted with a lowbrow sense of humor, this ad made me chuckle a little. Once I thought about it further, however, the conclusion was inescapable: I ain’t buyin’ that ship."
Encouraged by the viral nature of "Ship My Pants" which got more than 20 million views on YouTube, Kmart followed with "Big Gas Savings" (six million views) and "Show Your Joe" (15 million views). Despite the popularity of the spots, Kmart’s sales continue to flounder. As an article on Mashable points out, same-store sales for both the second and third quarters were down 2.1 percent for the chain.
"I almost think that the ads are hurting them," Brian Sozzi, chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, told Mashable. "The ads suggest it’s back, but when you walk into the stores, it’s the same old thing. It’s a bait and switch."
- Show Your Joe – Kmart/YouTube
- Big Gas Savings – Kmart/YouTube
- Ship My Pants – Kmart/YouTube
- So Your Ad Went Viral — Big Deal! – Mashable
- Will ‘Shipping Its Pants’ Work for Kmart? – RetailWire
Do you think that a commercial going viral can actually wind up hurting a retailer or brand? Do you think that is or isn’t the case with the viral videos Kmart produced in 2013?