Kmart targets Internet, ups spend

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KMartáhas has been stepping up its online marketing efforts this year as it begins to take a more integrated approach in its communications with consumers. As a result, it is spending less on traditional media such as TV advertising.

"In trying to live where [the customers] live, where they can be more engaged with our message, we are shifting the media mix," said Terry Brophey, VP of advertising at Kmart, in one of the company's first interviews about marketing strategy since it merged with Sears in 2005.

For the past couple of years, Kmart has been focused on promotional advertising and hasn't had an overall brand campaign, Brophey continued. That "hurt us in the customer's eye," she said.

In May, Kmart launched its first integrated brand marketing campaign since 2003. It features the Mr. Bluelight character - named after the company's Blue Light special of the '70s and '80s - and is being featured on TV, the Internet, in store and, starting last week, in circulars. His role is to highlight the quality Kmart offers, provide friendly shopping guidance and inject some fun into the shopping experience.

"The power of the integrated message cannot be underestimated," Brophey said. "By launching our new positioning with Mr. Bluelight, we are reaping the benefits of those synergies," she continued, adding that the feedback to the new branding campaign has been positive so far.

Last week, Kmart went the next step in its embracing of integrating marketing by launching a multichannel back-to-school campaign with new agency of record, Draftfcb Chicago, known for taking a holistic approach to marketing.

"We're feeling really good about the back-to-school campaign because it is totally integrated," Brophey said.

Some time next month or in the beginning of September, Kmart will also relaunch its Web site with new enhancements and functionality, including customer reviews.

The back-to-school campaign consists of TV and radio ads for the general and Hispanic markets as well as a robust Internet marketing component consisting of banner ads, a dedicated landing page on the Kmart.com Web site, casual online games and other deals. There is messaging throughout for both moms and teenagers.

The back-to-school landing page was designed to direct moms to the broad array of goods and categories she can find online at Kmart.com on in Kmart stores. It features separate links to Kmart's selection of Disney-licensed apparel, the French Toast line and the Levis Strauss Signature line. There is also a shopping list that can be printed out and taken to the store.

"The overall approach is that we're helping [customers] to actively cross the aisle," said Miguel Gonzalez, VP/group creative director at Draftfcb, explaining that some customers may think of Kmart for only one or two product categories and not their array of back-to-school needs.

"We want [them] to know that Kmart has the things her tween and teenage kids are looking for, like hoodies," Gonzalez said.

The Flash-animation banner ads, for example, highlight teen-friendly apparel like jeans and hoodies. They are appearing on MSN, iVillage and Clubmom.

Casual online games, which research has shown are mostly played by women, are also part of the mix.

"We know that as part of her online routine, mom likes to escape and engage in casual gaming online," said Ron Blevins, manager, online and emerging media at Kmart.

There is a link on the back-to-school landing page to Kmart's growing selection of casual games. In addition, the company incorporated Kmart into one of the most popular online games, Bejeweled, which challenges players to form groups of three matching jewels inside a box filled with jewels of many different shapes and colors. In the Kmart version at AOL the retailer's products and logos replace jewels.

Kmart is also putting up exclusive content on Kaboose.com, the community Web site for parents and supporting Podshow.com, a peer-to-peer site for teens wanting to share user-generated content, with advertising.

Both Kmart and Draftfcb said the Internet will play an bigger role in future campaigns.

Gonzalez added that the customer's "consideration process about what to put on her shopping list is being driven more and more by the Internet." ¡

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