By Laura Barker
In 2013, Kmart was quickly becoming irrelevant due to competitors like Walmart, Target, and Amazon. Part of the problem was Kmart’s reputation for out-of-stock items, which left customers frustrated and unlikely to return. To solve the problem, Kmart launched a service called Store to Home that promised customers that if they couldn’t find what they were looking for in-store, Kmart would order it online and ship it to their home for free. This made 65 million items available to every person who walked through the door and fought the inventory issue.
Kmart needed to reach out to its current customers to prevent them from switching to the other guys like Walmart and Amazon. The company studied its consumers and found that they were online-savvy, smartphone-bearing shoppers who expected the ease of online shopping to be carried over to in-store, traditional shopping. Kmart researched the online activity of its shoppers and found that they like edgy, boundary-pushing types of humor. Kmart put these ideas together and came up with the “Ship My Pants” campaign. The campaign began with a minute-long video that Kmart posted on its YouTube account in which several customers used the phrase “ship my pants” to describe the ease in having items not available in store shipped to their home. The play on words provided a shock factor that drew millions in, and the video quickly went viral.
The video began on Kmart’s YouTube channel and finally aired on television after some time. The video was so successful that soon, parodies were being made and it was featured on several daytime talk shows. Some were offended by the humor, but most found it funny and likable. It was smart for Kmart to use a risky phrase to promote its new service because the company was becoming forgotten, dated, and uncool. The “ship my pants” slogan demanded Millennial attention and had consumers talking about Kmart in a way they hadn’t in the past.