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CASE STUDY: Kmart "Ship My Pants"

kmart ship my pants I am one of those people who only watches the Super Bowl for the commercials. Perhaps it's a result of my aversion to professional football, but I prefer to think it's inspired by my curiosity about the marketing industry.

I don't throw the word "epic" around very often, but last night I stumbled across what I feel comfortable calling an epic triumph in advertising. A commercial so great, in fact, that I watched it about twelve times...and laughed during each rolling of the tape.

If you haven't seen Kmart's new "Ship my Pants" spot...brace yourself. (Thoughts continue after the leap...)

As one YouTuber put it, "this is a commercial that appeals to the 12-year-old inside of all of us." As the commercial, which has been live for less than two weeks, nears 15 million views, I'd say that's a lot of inner 12-year-olds. Beyond the potty humor, the spot was a genius move for several reasons...

  • It's talkable. Admittedly, it's not exactly high-brow humor, but the spot uses just enough shock factor to strike that sweet spot where amused meets aghast. When this happens, it gets people talking and sharing. In an age where everyone hits the fast forward on the DVR, you've done something right when 15 million people have made an effort to track your spot down so they can share it with their friends and watch it over and over again. 
  • It  targets a new demographic. Traditionally regarded as the retailer of choice for grannies and cat ladies, this spot was a ballsy way to break the schema associated with Kmart. By breaking through the clutter with messaging that is totally out of character, the brand has tapped into the minds (and mouths) of a new, younger demographic. (Or as Dr. Jonah Berger eloquently puts it in his book Contagious, top of mind = tip of tongue.)
  • It launches the brand into a new space. As a bricks-and-mortar store, Kmart has no doubt been impacted by the changing retail landscape. Sure, they have a website, but when it comes to online ordering, it's hard to compete with amazon. At the core, the spot drives home a clear message, flipping the proverbial bird to Amazon and giving their shipping policy a run for its money.

While a tv spot can't save the world, I can't help but wonder if taking a messaging risk can ignite a turnaround for a brand many consider(ed) to be on their way out. I'm curious to see what the future of Kmart's messaging has in store for us. In the meantime, I'll be here giggling away every time that lady enthusiastically whispers, "I just shipped my drawers!"


est est est wine Last weekend a group of us headed out to celebrate my bestie's 33rd birthday. Noticing a wine claiming to hail from an Italian region referred to as "EST! EST!! EST!!" our waitress asked if we knew the story behind the unusual name.

Depending on who you ask, sometime between the 10th and 12th centuries,  a Catholic bishop was traveling through Italy on his way to Rome. The bishop sent a servant ahead to scout out village taverns with great wine. When the servant found a satisfactory wine he would scrawl EST (Latin for "it is") on the door. Legend has it that the servant was so impressed with the wine being served at a Montefiascone inn that he enthusiastically scrawled Est! Est!! Est!!! on the door.

Several days (and several glasses of wine) later, the story is still sticking with me.

Storytelling matters.

Cin cin!

7 Awesome Examples of Surprise + Delight That Will Blow Your Mind

hockey budweiser The past few weeks I have shared a series of posts and thoughts on swag, surprise and social engagement. Today, we’re going to segue into full-on surprise. Valentines week seems like an appropriate time for this transition, as surprise and delight is all about creating a memorable love transaction between a brand and their fans.

Dr. Jonah Berger spoke at the 2013 F.I.R.E. Sessions, and left behind a few advance copies of his new book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. I read it cover to cover while held up at the airport (Thanks, Nemo!) this weekend. (Go pre-order your copy now! It’s awesome.)

Amongst the great thoughts in the book, Jonah shares some particularly interesting (and surprise-relevant) insights on the power of awe:

“Awe is the sense of wonder and amazement that occurs when someone is inspired by great knowledge, beauty, sublimity, or might. It’s the experience of confronting something greater than yourself. Awe expands ones frame of reference and drives self-transcendence. Awe is a complex motion and frequently involves a sense of surprise, unexpectedness or mystery.” (page 88) Awe also inspires sharing. For example, Jonah and his team determined that awe-inspiring articles were 30% more likely to make the “Most Emailed” list.

With that in mind…enjoy these seven examples of awesome (or maybe I should say awe-some) surprise and delight. Combined, these 7 videos have garnered over 12 million views. If the average person has 120 Facebook friends, that means these shares could have reached more than 1,440,000,000 people on Facebook alone. Behold the power of awe.

CASE STUDY 1: KLEENEX (52k views)

Scenario: Kleenex is a brand that people reach for (literally) when they’re feeling crappy.

Opportunity: Make people feel better by making them feel extra special.



CASE STUDY 2: BUDWEISER (4 million views)

Scenario: Budweiser is a non-pretentious beer for everyone.

Opportunity: Bring people together to celebrate the underdogs.



CASE STUDY 3: TACO BELL (134k views)

Scenario: Last year someone played an elaborate joke on the town of Bethel, Alaska (pop. 6,000) by starting a rumor that Taco Bell had plans to set up shop in their town. With the nearest TB more than four hours away, residents were crushed to learn the truth.

Opportunity: Turn a negative into a positive—and let them eat tacos!



CASE STUDY 4: TROPICANA (500k views)

Scenario: Tropicana orange juice is a well-known breakfast beverage. Sunshine and Tropicana go together like peanut butter and jelly, bacon and eggs, Hall and Oates.

Opportunity: Bring a little sunshine to those who need it most—a group of residents in the Canadian arctic who haven’t seen sunlight in more than a month.



CASE STUDY 5: RADIO KLASSIK (5.9 million views)

Scenario: Classic music and radio are two things that don’t rank high on most people’s “must have” list this day in age. That’s a bad thing when you’re a classic radio station.

Opportunity: If the people won’t come to you, bring the music to the people.



CASE STUDY 6: FORD (50k views)

Scenario: Ford makes cars that everyone can enjoy on some level.

Opportunity: Nobody should be excluded from the joy that comes from stepping behind the wheel of a fast car. Could Ford create a remarkable driving experience for the visually impaired?



CASE STUDY 7: HONDA (1.5 million views)

Scenario: When Monsters Calling Home couldn’t afford studio time, the band was forced to make a music video in their Honda.

Opportunity: Inspired by their brand declaration “Honda Loves You Back,” the people at Honda challenged themselves to find a way to give a little love back to Monsters Calling Home.



Swag vs. Surprise: 3 Lessons

lucy surprise A couple weeks ago I wrote about the role swag and surprise play in social engagement. Turns out…this is kind of a hot topic. When it comes to swag and marketing, just about everyone has an opinion.

I posed a question on my facebook page (hoping to get some gut reactions from friends outside the marketing industry.)

Are you more likely to engage with brands through social because you want a relationship with them or because you want access to perks, discounts, free stuff?

Carmen O. I want a relationship with brands I identify with on a personal level in some way (e.g., Seventh Generation (social responsibility) or Enjoy Life (access to allergy-free food.) I don’t pay attention to whether there is a freebie, I already feel I’m in a relationship with these brands. Engaging through social no doubt strengthens that.

Laura S. I do not seek any sort of relationship with a brand. My loyalty to a brand is based strictly on the functionality of their product and the social/environmental impact of their company. For large national brands, I equate any social interaction with them to advertising, so unless there is some sort of perk or reward for interacting with the brand, I’m not interested.

For example, Facebook keeps suggesting I follow Bounty paper towels. I buy Bounty because they work, not because they have an interactive Facebook page. I would only tolerate their content in my newsfeed if I got something out of it.

Local brands are different to me, kind of like cheering for the hometown hero. I enjoy knowing how they are growing, what they are learning, and how they are changing. I want local brands to succeed because their success reflects well on my city, which is a reward in itself.

Monica J. I just experienced swag love yesterday. I ordered some products recommended by a friend from MooGoo. They came all the way from Australia. In the box, they had included a note thanking me for ordering from so far away. They also included free gifts and samples of other products I hadn’t ordered. They didn’t have to do any of that, but it was so very awesome that they did. It spawned immediate social media action from me as I was motivated to go like their FB page, gush on their wall about my experience, and thank my friend for recommending MooGoo. They earned me as a customer for life just by being thoughtful.

The swag post received a couple comments from great minds in the industry, as well. Their comments drive home a few points I wanted to make about swag and surprise. You’ll find them below…


Let’s be honest. We all love free stuff. But if you’re anything like me, you’ve pitched more than a few branded tumblers, keychains and koozies in your time.

Let’s get a couple things straight, shall we?

You can surprise without giving out swag. (Good.) You can give out swag without surprising and delighting. (Less good.) You can surprise and delight with the help of swag. (Hooray!)

Swag is stuff. Surprise is a sentiment.

Swag is about creating a one-off. Surprise is about creating a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Swag is evidence that your brand has a promotional item budget. Surprise is evidence that your brand is paying attention to your customers.

Swag is one-night stand. Surprise is an LTR.



Got it?

2. TIMING IS EVERYTHING. When you employ the use of swag and surprise may be just as important (if not more than) as what you give someone. Remember: surprise and delight isn’t intended to “buy,” “coerce,” “convince” or “sway.” It’s meant to show the people who love your brand that you love them back…and you’re tuned in and paying attention.

Mack Collier@MackCollier I think an important clarification needs to be made in the discussion of giving customers free stuff. WHEN they receive the free stuff can be the most important consideration.

In general, if the gift comes BEFORE the purchase, it’s an incentive to change behavior. If the gift comes AFTER the purchase, then it is viewed by the customer as a REWARD. A reward helps build loyalty, which can turn customers into fans. In researching my book I discovered that this is probably the biggest marketing disconnect between brands and rock stars. Brands, for the most part, target getting business from NEW customers, via incentives, offers and free stuff. Rock stars also offer free stuff, but they target their biggest fans via secret shows, autograph signings, etc. The idea is to target your fans, create something amazing for them, then let them become your marketing channel via word of mouth.

3. THIS IS ABOUT MORE THAN GOODS. IT’S ABOUT BEING GOOD.  Surprise and swag can work together to create a truly remarkable experience, but at the end of the day surprise isn’t about stuff, it’s about sentiment.

In the same way the coolest swag loses impact when there is no thought behind it, a simple, handwritten note has the power to overwhelm and delight. Why? Because it shows someone—a real human—cares. And in a world of tweets, text and automation, a real connection with a real human goes a heck of a long way.

Geno Church, @GenoChurch I love hand written notes. I keep every one I get. I often buy from Frank & Oak, an online men’s clothing club. With every purchase I get a little hand written note along with a random nugget. It’s not the typical thank you, and it speaks to the folks at F&O. I find that a meaningful treasure.

BRINGING IT ALL HOME… So am I proposing that you swear of swag? Definitely not. What I am challenging you to do is get to know your customers. Get in there and pay attention. Find out what they need and what they want. Really listen. Find out what makes them tick and what makes them smile. Then challenge yourself to blindside them with something remarkable.

UP NEXT WEEK: 7 Awesome Examples of Surprise and Delight that will Blow your Mind.

YOUR TURN: In the meantime, step up to the mic and share your thoughts with us. Are you more likely to engage with brands through social because you want a relationship with them or because you want access to perks, discounts and free stuff?

Free Love: The Influence of Swag + Surprise on Social Engagement

free love makes people happy Be advised: Today I am going to share an opinion that may ruffle your feathers a bit.

If you are looking to increase conversation about and brand loyalty…give people free stuff.

Now that I have your attention…I’ll admit, it’s a little more complex than that.

From what I have observed, there tend to be two schools of thought when it comes to the role of free stuff in marketing. On one side you have the swag-crazy “buy your love” types willing to throw t-shirts and koozies at anyone with a Twitter following. At the other end of the spectrum you have high-and-mighty marketers who believe clever content is all it takes to earn a follow or inspire a love connection. The types who unapologetically snub their noses at the notion that “surprise and delight” might include free swag (and God help you if you dare to utter the phrase “klout score” in their presence…)

Both of these camps are in the wrong. You can’t buy love, and content is simply not enough anymore. Attention spans are short and expectations are high in this vastly over-connected, ever-evolving, socially-saturated landscape. As the power dynamic has shifted and consumers have taken the wheel, their needs and wants have changed. People aren’t just connecting with brands because they value their industry or product (let’s be honest, toilet paper, butter and laundry soap aren’t all that interesting.) They want to establish a one-on-one relationship with a brand and they want the brand to establish a relationship with them. Social engagement between brands and fans has become a lot like dating, but we’ll get to that soon enough.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I plan to make a case for the valid and valuable role “free stuff” plays in a sound marketing strategy. I have no intention of advocating on behalf of freebies, rather I intend to explore the way “surprise and delight” is resonating with consumers and elevating brands. I plan to share some tangible examples of surprise and delight from my own experiences, as well as a few case studies from brands I believe are doing it right. More on that to come.

In the meantime, let’s take a look at some of the research that validates the role of “free love” in the minds of marketers vs. the minds of consumers.

A BRIEF SYNOPSIS CMOs like to think social engagement is a direct result of quality content. They focus their energy on creating content, and see little reason to incentivize loyalty. The overwhelming majority of consumers surveyed, however, say that incentives (free stuff, special offers) are the number one thing that lead them to engage with a brand in the social space.

THE LONGER STORY According to a global study67% of people surveyed expressed an expectation that liking or following a brand would result in exclusive offers. When the same question was posed to a group of CMOs, the results were vastly different.

“The CMOs surveyed believed that social engagement is more of a by-product of quality content, and are less concerned with incentivizing loyalty among their followers. According to [the CMOs], customers interact with brands because they want to be heard (41%) or are looking for news or information about products (40%). Only 33% believe their fans are looking for incentives or rewards, and only 27% believe customers are seeking special savings or experiences exclusive for followers.

Fluke findings, perhaps? Not so much. The results have been reaffirmed by several other studies.

Similar findings were uncovered by ExactTarget, which explored what prompted consumers to engage with an email, like a brand on Facebook or follow on Twitter.

“‘Stuff’ remained the main driver for engagement, with the top two motivators being discount promotions (52%) and receiving ‘free stuff or giveaways’ (44%). For Facebook, it’s the same.”

At the end of the day, 67% of consumers are motivated to socially engage by a behavior that only 27% of marketers are willing to recognize. Sounds like a conundrum. It also begs the question are we, as marketers, seeing reality? Or are we choosing to interpret reality as we would like it to be?

FOOD FOR THOUGHT (we want to hear your thoughts in the comments below!)

1) What motivates you to connect and engage with a brand?

2) Have you ever been the recipient of a “surprise and delight”? How did that experience change your relationship with a brand?

3) What is your general sentiment toward brands that make “free stuff” part of their marketing strategy?

4) What are your favorite examples of surprise and delight?

UP NEXT WEEK: Swag vs. Surprise + Delight

Dear Marketers...Do Your Job. There is a quote by C.S. Lewis that goes a little something like this: Don’t say it was delightful; make us say delightful when we’ve read the description. You see, all those words (horrifying, wonderful, hideous, exquisite) are only like saying to your readers, “Please will you do the job for me.”

I dare say the same is true of marketing. As marketers we do a lot of talking and thinking about how to engage people in talking about, sharing and loving our brands. Asking people to do all of those things, rather than inspiring them to do so, is a lot like asking them to do your job for you. Sometimes I think we forget that our job isn’t just making “pretty trash” (as Greg Cordell has been known to call it), our job is to make people care and fall in love.

In the instant we cease to dwell on selling a service or pushing a product and chose to refocus our energies on creating a remarkable moment or simply bringing a little extra dose of joy into the world, we cease to be “marketers” and start living up to our potential as the magic makers and pixie dusters we really are.

Brand Fans, Storytelling + Video Tape

disney world mickey Before you dig into this post, take a moment to reflect on the last time you saw a really great, really memorable, really brand-endearing produced television commercial? With the exception of perhaps Dollar Shave Club, I’m hard-pressed to come up with an answer.

I recently read a statistic that noted by age 65 the average American has watched more than 2 million television commercials. At 30 seconds a spot, that boils down to 1,000,000 minutes of life. If my math is correct, that further breaks down to 694 days. This means the average adult has spent nearly two years of their life watching television commercials by the time they blow out their 65th birthday candles.

There is a quote from Mumford & Sons that goes something like, “Where you invest your time, you invest your life.” I don’t know about you, but I can think of plenty of better ways to spend two years of my life than watching lukewarm tv commercials.

Your bran's fans and customers share their passion for your brand through stories about your brand. Whether you’re asking people to give up 30 seconds of their life to watch a tv spot, or hoping they’ll invest 30 years of their life as a loyal fan, your brand’s best stories aren’t those that clever marketers create, they’re the stories you empower your advocates to tell.

The proof is in the VHS.


Remarkable is in the Details

kimpton hotels dogs Last week I hopped a plane with my family and jetted off to northern California to enjoy a little wine, sunshine and together time. Near the end of our trip, we packed up and headed south to San Francisco. During an afternoon stroll I happened to wander into The Argonaut Hotel, which was right around the corner from mine.

Before I continue, let’s establish one thing. It’s fair to say I am a “dog person.” (Note: this is the understatement of the century.) While I don’t typically travel with my own dog, there have been times in my life when it has proven difficult to find a dog friendly hotel.

Immediately upon entering The Argonaut, I stumbled across this little sign welcoming, recognizing and celebrating the weekend’s four-footed guests. The Argonaut welcomes pets 200 pounds and under (yes 200, that’s not a typo), for free. Pets are treated to free perks like pet beds (available in various sizes), food and water bowls, and treats. The hotel even sponsors an annual “Howl’oween” event.

From their website:

Pet Friendly Hotels In San Francisco? The Argonaut Is A Dog’s Best Friend. We admit it, we wear our puppy love on our sleeves. Can you blame us? Who can resist those big brown eyes and wagging tails? So we know how hard it can be to leave your furry sidekick behind. That’s why the Argonaut Hotel has adopted a pet-friendly policy that not only welcomes your pet, but also includes no size restrictions or extra charges.

It would seem I have returned to Greenville to talk about a hotel where I wasn’t even a guest. Why? Because I believe we could all learn a little something from The Argonaut.

The following is a mashup of wise tidbits from Nelson Boswell, Rick Tate, Gary Comer and Walt Disney. Combined, it forms a pretty profound nugget of wisdom…

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: always give people more than what they expect to get. Merely satisfying customers will not be enough to earn their loyalty. Instead, they must experience exceptional service worthy of their repeat business and referral. Understand the factors that drive this customer revolution. Worry about being better; bigger will take care of itself. Think one customer at a time and take care of each one the best way you can. Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends.”

Know your customer. And know your competition. When the other guys are focused on simply meeting the basic needs of the customer, aim your energies and efforts on giving them that AND more. Find their sweet spot. Whether it comes in the form of a philanthropic perk with purchase, a dose of humor where it’s least expected or a simple welcome sign celebrating the customers you love (and the four-legged creatures they love)–remarkable is in the details.

Are you in the giraffe business? You should be.

giraffe ritz carlton A couple weeks ago, a pack of BOFers had the opportunity to join our courageous clients at Anytime Fitness for their annual conference in Chicago. I could write ten pages of blog post about how inspiring the event was and still barely scratch the surface, so instead I’m going to share an interesting tidbit that stuck with me.

While in Chicago, we had the opportunity to sit in on a session with Alexandra Valentin, Corporate Director of the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. During her talk, Alexandra recounted a customer service story that made all 1,400 people in attendance gasp and “aww” in amazement. After doing a little digging around online, I found a video post from the gentleman who received said outstanding service…and wanted to pass it on. If you don’t do anything else today, take a few minutes to watch this video. It will change how you think about customer service and the customer experience.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we don’t just work in the (insert your industry here) business. We are all in the people business. I wonder what would happen if we stopped treating customers like customers and started treated them like friends and family?

Anyone can surprise and delight. I challenge you to find your giraffe and create a remarkable experience for someone this week.

CHIME IN: Have you ever been on the receiving end of surprise and delight?

The Brave Shall Inspire the WOM

Today’s post is very simple. No wordy paragraphs. No exhaustive prose. Just a simple observation–and a video that drives the point home. WOM is not just something that happens FOR clients, it is something that happens BECAUSE of clients. It happens because they are courageous, bold, daring. It happens because they believe in a better way.

Have the gall to cause a stir…and WOM victory shall be yours.

It’s as simple as that.