Earlier in the week I saw a link to a USA Today article titled “Kmart’s “ship my pants” ad causes shock-waves and smiles”. I immediately clicked on the link because I’m part of a network of friends and family who share emails where sophomoric drivel is the key focus, and this had way too much promise not to investigate. As a side note, I received high marks for the day.
The interesting part of the buzz surrounding the clip is the issue of wether or not it’s over the top? Is it clever? Does it make you laugh? Will it keep you away from Kmart because you’re offended? After viewing the clip and thinking about possible reactions it brings up, I thought I’d pass it along to the team because there is an issue here that could be an interesting point of discussion to our show.
This of course isn’t new. Rather quickly the team found similar suggestive clips from Burger King, Virgin Air, Bud Light, PETA, and Quizno’s where the employee is holding a foot long sandwich and the toaster oven is begging in a deep voice to “put it in me Scott”.
So, one point I thought might be particularly relative is that we all have our opinions and reactions as consumers, but what about the employees? What if a normally conservative company decides to go rogue and get wild? What does the employee do if they are offended? What do they do if they view this move as the cool thing, the right thing to do? The issue here is how does the corporate culture, or a shift in corporate culture influence the employees.
Two things are of note here. One, Kmart has reported a decline in sales and this could be an attempt to try something dramatically different to boost sales, and two, the spot (originally intended only to appear on line is now being aired on certain cable stations) was created by the current ad agency and the account has been in review (RFP’s solicited) since January.
Being an accountant and an analytical person, I decided to create a list …. pros and cons. It proved to invoke more questions than answers but here is my short list;
PRO – People like to be on the cutting edge, the new “in”, the cool company, the company everybody is talking about. The company positioned on the edge could give employees that sense of something special and add to the company culture. Recruiting new “top draft choice” employees could get easier as well as getting the best of the best.
CON – Clients might not understand. Clients might not share in the humor. Offended clients could withdraw business or put pressure on the company to change direction again and confuse the marketplace. Employees might get mixed signals. Have the rules been relaxed? Could they see this as the green light to post for example twitter posts carrying the joke too far and cause serious HR complications? Damage control if the joke goes too far is expensive.
Please listen in to our weekly broadcast when the team from FYI Business Consulting discusses the place for humor in the corporate culture, the correct protocol to ship one’s pants and the proper positioning of a whoopee cushion on the boss’s chair. Be careful where you sit, Carmella.