Kmart’s newest target market: 12-year-old boys.

Lori Bahnmueller 05/20/13 - 6:09 pm

When did Kmart decide to shift its target demo from women—73 percent of whom control household spending (Boston Consulting Group)—to unemployed, middle school-aged boys?

Market estimates about U.S. women’s purchasing prowess varies, ranging anywhere from $5 trillion to $15 trillion annually. My 12-year-old son rarely has enough change in his pockets to cover a fun-sized candy bar. So why has the troubled retailer so wantonly abandoned women in its latest ad campaign?

The campaign kicked off in April with the video “Ship My Pants.” (Go ahead.  Say it out loud for full effect.) Featuring assorted shoppers professing that they had “shipped their pants” to promote Kmart’s Shop Your Way rewards program and its shipping feature, the video has garnered more than 17 million views on You Tube. The viral traffic is impressive, but will it drive store traffic? Doubtful. 

Kmart Ship My Pants Commercial

Kmart followed “Ship My Pants” with the radio commercial “Gas Problem,” a juvenile play on words to market Shop Your Way. The rewards program is a growing loyalty club that offers members benefits, including discounts at participating gas stations.

“If you’re like most people, you suffer from occasional gas problems that prevent you from doing the things you love,” the announcer states delicately, cuing up a series of people who confess to a family history of gas problems, missed dinners out and more. “My gas problem got so bad, I had to cancel a father son camping trip,” says a woeful parent.

Reportedly this is Kmart’s attempt to relate more to shoppers, but to what shoppers? Free shipping isn’t exactly a novel idea, nor are loyalty programs. So once the value proposition has been sifted out of the ads, all that’s left are bathroom jokes to hang the brand on. Not exactly chick magnet material.

Women are poised to control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the U.S. over the next decade and be the beneficiaries of the largest transfer of wealth in our country’s history, according to Fleishman Hillard Inc. If Kmart wants share of the purse, it’s particularly important that its advertising and marketing resonate with her.

The first step toward creating brand loyalty is grabbing her attention; the second step is retention. The female brain is hard-wired with evolutionary strongholds to create a very specialized customer, according to Nielsen NeuroFocus research.  In other words, it takes a lot more than fart jokes and complimentary shipped shorts to make her take notice.

Women remember more and differently than men do, so talk to both her emotional and rational sides and acknowledge her careful attention to detail, suggests Nielsen NeuroFocus research. Appeal to her heart and her mind with a mix of emotional decision-making opportunities and rational information to increase purchase intent and bolster loyalty.

Finally, accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. According to Nielsen NeuroFocus, the female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging should be positive and not focus on negative comparisons or associations.

Attention women: What’s your favorite ad campaign today and why? Download our free whitepaper: How women buy and what it means for your marketing plan.

6 thoughts on “Kmart’s newest target market: 12-year-old boys.”

  1. Lori, I couldn’t agree more!
    Lori, I couldn’t agree more! While I got a chuckle out of the original Ship My Pants, I had to hear Gas Problems several times before I listened to it all the way through to discover it was actually a Kmart commercial. I wondered who they were trying to target with this approach. It seems like it’s all about the sensation, less about driving sales. To answer your question, I really like the new Johnson and Johnson commercials (especially b/c they use Sweet Child of Mine as the soundtrack), the Subaru LOVE commercials (I know, I’m a sap!) and the TD Ameritrade/Matt Damon voice over “It’s not rock science” commercials.

  2. I think the Evian commercial
    I think the Evian commercial where people watch themselves dance as though they are children is very clever, unfortunately the point of drinking Evian water is lost entirely!The Chrysler commercial that shows the driver going through Detroit, especially near areas everyone is familiar with sticks in my head the most. I know what the commercial is about and that it’s based here in Michigan showing Detroit in a good light really speaks to me.

  3. As to this particular
    As to this particular commerical “I shipped my pants” I thought it was funny at first, but then very juvenile. Did it make me want to go to KMart and buy something? No. Show me your patio furniture, give me a good deal on dog food or linens, then I’m interested.

  4. Thank you for sharing the
    Thank you for sharing the Johnson & Johnson example Mary. It hits every high note. The images depict happy, healthy babies and the music track gushes adoration – key messages that resonate with all parents. It makes a visceral, emotional connection. Finally, the content is congruent with the brand promise: We help you care for your children. Enough said!

  5. Thank you for your comments
    Thank you for your comments Julie. When my office mate ran the “Ship My Pants” video the first time, all of us laughed. We even shared it on Brogan’s Facebook page. It’s audacious and risky. And it ages quickly. The fact that my 12-year-old didn’t care to share it with anyone speaks to its short shelf life. And to your point, the true test of great advertising is whether it ultimately helps drive sales. Time will be the judge on the success of the campaign.

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