Remember those “Ship my Pants” commercials Kmart had running? They were everywhere and people were loving them. The ads earned Kmart 20 million views on YouTube alone this year. They then parlayed that into a “Big Gas Savings” campaign that brought them in another 6 million views. Awesome for them right?
Not so fast.
Their sales fell 2.1% in the third quarter…just like they’d done in the quarter before. Sure, it’s arguable that some positive effect on sales is masked in there, but that’s really difficult to prove and, barring some serious catastrophe in their sales numbers that the ads compensated for, it’s pretty clear that virality doesn’t directly correlate to moving product. (None of this is helped by the fact that they weren’t tracking the numbers for the shipping service that the ad was pushing). But wait…The company is seeing a huge increase in engagement from a new crop of Internet users.
I’m a big proponent of the idea that attention doesn’t equal sales which, let’s be honest, is the reason most businesses are in business. Of course, brand recognition is important, and not every ad is intended to translate instantly into a sale, but in BJJ, a market that is hyper-local but still somehow dominated by only a few players, it’s worth asking how many of the finer points of the Kmart example really apply.
The example holds multiple lessons for sure, but the biggest I think, is the importance of brand recognition in an ad. From hot-chix-in-gis to a hump-day adoring camel, when you ask people about ads they really love or identify with, they frequently can’t tell you who wants them to buy what, when or why. So Facebook shares are awesome and retweets can make you feel like a winner, but it’s up to you to decide whether a 5% bump in purchase intent is worth effort that could be spent elsewhere.