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Kmart has created a little controversy this season. Some would argue that even bad press can be good press because it means people are talking about you, but I’ll leave your own opinions on that up to you. I think Kmart’s intentions haven’t necessarily been to create controversy, but they certainly have been to get people talking, laughing, and going gaga over America’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” Here are just a few reasons why Kmart has a serious marketing team that is doing some seriously great stuff this year.

They bring the unexpected

It all started in September. Yes, September. That’s when the first Christmas commercial of the Holiday season aired. If you’re like me, you would have been thinking, “Hold your horses, September is practically still summer. What’s this talk of the Holidays?” Well, Kmart thinks it’s a great time to plan ahead and put a few things on layaway before the traditional shopping season begins. For some it might be, but for others, it was the beginning of a series of rants, blog posts, and news articles full of complaints. However, everyone still remembers two things:

  1. Kmart was the first Holiday commercial of the year. The very first. No one else even came close. Timing is everything with placement.
  2. Kmart has layaway should you ever need it.



I am going to have to go ahead and say that this is borderline genius.

Next, Kmart shocked us with their “Show Your Joe” commercial. If you haven’t seen the half-dressed gentlemen shaking their behinds to Jingle Bells, then you’re in for a funny little show. For some, however, this ad was clearly not enjoyed. It created chaos and was even compared to the Miley Cyrus twerking shenanigan. It was called “racy” and many protested against the ad. Still, it remains on the air and is loved by some and hated by others.

(The official video has since been removed, but a quick search of YouTube will show you the commercial in question.)

The good? This ad was certainly a creative risk that got some backlash, but once again, people are talking. It’s entertaining and has a definite shock factor when you realize you’re getting more (or less) than men playing Jingle Bells in tuxedos. Shock factor is a risky move, but can be a big win when it comes to marketing.

Kmart’s latest Holiday surprise? Adam Levine. Kmart introduces the Adam Levine Collection during the 2013 Holiday season and I have an inkling that this one won’t be getting many complaints. The ad is unique because it does not let on to be a holiday commercial, yet it is. It’s made for the holidays, airs around the holidays, gets shoppers into the store for the holidays, but it’s not your traditional gifts and Christmas tree holiday commercial. It really mixes up what we’re seeing on television this time of year. It’s refreshing. It’s unique. It’s smart marketing.


They have the celeb factor


Not every great commercial involves a celebrity. In fact, most don’t, but Kmart is on a mission to attract young, hip shoppers, and who wouldn’t want to watch the “Sexiest Man Alive” get up and get ready for the day in his luxurious hotel room overlooking sunny Los Angeles?

Choosing Adam for a clothing line and creating a commercial around it this time of year was pure genius. Why? Adam Levine is “so hot right now” as they say. Guys have “man crushes” on his swagger and rugged good looks, and women swoon over his smooth voice and handsome bad-boy charm. In addition to all of that, he’s on one of television’s hottest shows and is also at the top of his music game right now.

Kmart could not have chosen a better partner for a clothing line. He’s the ‘it’ man right now, and they saw it coming. His commercial dropped just in time to draw people into the store for their holiday shopping.

Their ads are compelling

Two of the aforementioned ads in particular have content that really draw you in and catch your attention.
“Show Your Joe” is simply funny. Controversial, but funny and if it doesn’t offended you it’s good entertainment which always attracts people.

As for the Adam Levine Collection ad, I’m positive that this is not the first time we have seen someone get ready and run out the door in a commercial, and it certainly won’t be the last. What makes this ad compelling is that it keeps you wondering what’s next, like any good marketing tactic should. Commercials, writers, products themselves, or whatever it may be, should always make you want more of what they’ve got, and Kmart does just that with this commercial.

Their ads maintain some relevancy

The Adam Levine collection commercial in particular, while timed to air around the holidays, is relevant any time of the year. Adam Levine is going to be the Sexiest Man Alive for almost an entire year, and will likely remain popular for years beyond that, and this commercial will follow him down that path. Great marketing means making some of what you do timeless, and for as long and Adam has a line at Kmart, this commercial will remain such.

They Integrate with Social Media

Perhaps the best thing Kmart does in each of their commercials is integrate with social media. Kmart’s website isn’t plastered across the screen, and there isn’t a big Twitter or Facebook logo to introduce you to their social media profiles. There’s something better. A hashtag. Genius. #kmartlayaway, #showyourjoe, and #adamlevinecollection makes these commercials and Kmart relevant across every social media site there is. Twitter, Pinteret, Instagram, you name it, they’re using hashtags to track trends and conversations. And you can be part of the trend by using one of them in any post that you do.

How you can use these ideas for your business

There are some great marketing ideas and tactics that you can take from Kmart and utilize for your own business.

  • While you may not want to have men dancing around in their underwear or Holiday ads in September, you most certainly can give people something they aren’t expecting. Go the extra mile to create something your customers and clients have never gotten from you before. It can be as simple as an appreciation email and surprise discount or as elaborate as a gift of some sort. You’d be surprised how much a little gesture can do for your brand, the customer who receives it, and your reputation they will pass along.
  • Give people something or someone that they can relate to. You likely don’t have a celebrity at your fingertips, but you can be relatable and attract your customers with something or someone that they identify with. You can have a live Twitter chat where you have a real person converse with your customers on a particular topic, you might have a mascot that people adore, or a character in a commercial or ad that attracts people’s attention. The opportunities to attract and relate to your customers are endless.
  • Don’t be afraid to have fun, after all, you’re people too. No matter the level of professionalism in your company, it is full of employees who probably like to have a little fun now and then. Don’t be afraid to re-tweet a joke, or say something humorous on a social media site. Be mindful of the platform you do it on, of course, and use good judgment, but there is nothing wrong with showing your lighter side. Your clients will most likely appreciate it.
  • Always, always…and I repeat, always integrate social media into everything that you do. It’s arguable, that if you ignore social media these days, you could be setting yourself up for bad news. Customers want to relate to you, they want to be part of you and what you’re doing. Social media sites, when used correctly, can be a huge driver for business. You can also get a good idea of what people do and don’t like from your business based on comments and data. It’s useful for so many things.


I hope this little review of some of the season’s most controversial ads that utilized some smart marketing tactics helped you get an idea of some things that your business can do as well. There are many ways to generate interest in your brand and build great relationships with your customers any time of the year.