Ship my Pants — The Strategy Behind Kmart’s Edgy Commercial

15 Apr


      Kmart has reinvented the Blue Light Special and it’s… well, a bit blue.  Perhaps too blue for traditional television and that’s part of the unique strategy.

      The original discount department store has pulled a little sophomoric potty humor out of isle ten in hopes of gaining more attention in a retail marketplace dominated by Walmart, Target and Amazon. 

Kmart's "Ship My Pants" commercial created by DraftFCB Chicago.

Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” commercial created by DraftFCB Chicago.

      DraftFCB in Chicago has produced a brilliantly off-color and humorous message promoting Kmart’s ability to “ship my pants,” or anything else from for free.   

      The message is very strategic.  Kmart is simply trying to regain lost customers by using humor to remind them that they don’t have to go to Amazon or Walmart to shop online. (Figure 1)

Figure 1

Figure 1

     The unique part of the strategy is to avoid television, and go directly to social media where edgy messaging can exceed the more sanitized boundaries of broadcast television.  It’s a messaging strategy more agencies and brands are exploiting in a multi-digital channel viral world.  In Kmart’s case, it was a brilliant success.  In the first 48-hours, “Ship my Pants” received more than two million YouTube views.

     Kmart is far from alone.  NJOY smokeless cigarettes also just scored a viral hit with Courtney Love dropping the f-bomb in an internet-only commercial that says bad girls can still be bad. 


    Several years ago, Ford didn’t have to say a word while promoting a sport version of its successful European compact car named Ka.  It targeted young urban men with an edgy internet video, the likes of which could never air in the United States.  


     Sometimes the strategy is not about being edgy, it’s about entertainment.  Turkish Airlines just achieved viral video gold with a commercial featuring two of the world’s best known athletes competing for the attention of a young fan.  The video was such a huge success that the airline created its own infographic explaining how it worked. (See below)

     Central to the strategy in all of these campaigns is the sharable functionality of social media.  Brand loyalists, followers, and viewers of these commercials who like and share the message among friends are in many respects more valuable than an expensive spot on prime time television.  In Kmart’s case, the strategy creates some opportunistic buzz for the brand at a time when JC Penney is hemorrhaging customers and every other discount retailer is still fighting for market share in the economic recovery.  

     Kmart and DraftFCB prove that creativity is still alive and well and fun… if not a little naughty. 

[Note: To keep up with more great video commercials, follow advertising savant John Eighmey]

Courtesy: Turkish Airlines

Courtesy: Turkish Airlines


4 Responses to “Ship my Pants — The Strategy Behind Kmart’s Edgy Commercial”

  1. Freelancer’s File April 15, 2013 at 1:19 pm #

    The video was a huge hit at the Advanced Storytelling Workshop. Shows the value of a good idea. We miss you at the workshop. Can you believe it’s been 15 years?

    • Timothy Blotz April 15, 2013 at 9:16 pm #

      Steve, you’re an example of another great idea! Congratulations on 15 years! Truly one of the single most important weeks of my life. Give my best to everyone!

  2. obudowa kominka May 28, 2014 at 3:03 am #

    Hi I am so thrilled I found your webpage, I really found you by error, while I was browsing on Aol for something else, Regardless I am here
    now and would just like to say kudos for a incredible post and
    a all round thrilling blog (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to go through
    it all at the minute but I have saved it and also added in your RSS feeds, so when I
    have time I will be back to read a great deal more, Please
    do keep up the fantastic work.

  3. Mykayla April 22, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

    this ship my pants video is just amazing. I am using it for a class assignment, huuuge credit and thank you DraftFCB ❤

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: