Competition Gets Pantsed by Kmart

I'll admit that when it comes to Sears Holdings , I'm not a big fan of the company. I see its death spiral as a slow, painful one for investors. It's too bad a new marketing campaign for its new Kmart shipping services isn't the norm, because it's the type of promo that makes the once venerable retailer seem relevant again.

Laden with innuendo, Kmart's "Ship My Pants" commercial highlighting the ability of shoppers to get items shipped for free from the company's website if it can't be found in stores is actually a pretty funny spot. It's gone viral, too, serving up more than 5 million hits at this writing, even though it was posted to YouTube just last week.

One actor remarks how excited he is that he can "ship my pants," while a woman notes that she "shipped my drawers" and a third person can't believe he "shipped my bed."

It's the kind of advertising that's fresh, despite being tinged with bawdiness. Contrast that with an out-of-touch and out-of-fashion decision by Sears to launch clothing lines by pop stars Nicki Minaj and Adam Levine -- an all too reminiscent retread of its Kim Kardashian clothing line -- and you have to give them props for going a different route here.

Not that the actual service Kmart is providing is unique, mind you. Wal-Mart offers a free ship-to-store feature, as do J.C. PenneyRadio Shack, Toys R Us, Nordstrom , and a number of other retailers. Actually, so committed to customer service is Nordstrom that it's even had employees drive items to a customer's house at no charge to ensure they get it. 

Yet the service does set Kmart apart from some of its top rivals, such as Target , which offers only a standard free shipping option if you use your Target credit card for the purchase. Macy's doesn't offer it at all.

Yet for those that do provide a free ship-to-store option, Kmart has separated itself by promoting it in a fun, memorable way. But let's see just how many customers decide to avail themselves of the opportunity and whether it can have an impact on a steadily declining retail base. As the sock puppet made clear, a clever advertising campaign doesn't always translate into sales.

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