Riding my bike while carrying a Slip N’ Slide about two miles was no easy task. But K-Mart’s blue light special helped me correct that I was the only 11-year-old in my neighborhood without her own waterslide. (That is until my dad made me get rid of it when I ran up the water bill.)
I’ve shed my tears for that waterslide and K-Mart’s disappearance long ago. What? K-Mart still exists?
My reaction, unfortunately, mirrors the overall sentiment about K-Mart’s struggling brand. This more than 100-year-old brand is trying to change that with its recent launch of MyKmart, a social hub connected to Kmart.com.
Disconnected Consumers—Timeline of a Dying Brand
Growing up in the 80s everyone I knew in Southern Michigan found deals under the glow of a one-hour blue light special. It was during this decade that K-Mart celebrated its 2000th store opening and began offering Martha Stewart-branded merchandise. Somewhere along the line K-Mart fell into obscurity, giving up on the blue light special in the early 1990s and becoming overshadowed by big discount chains Target and Wal-Mart.
In 1999, just one year after establishing Kmart.com, K-Mart brought back the blue light special by teaming with Yahoo in a failed e-commerce site called bluelight.com. Shortly after filing bankruptcy, K-Mart’s branding efforts continued faltering as its deal with Sears Roebuck & Co. merged the two struggling brands into Sears Holding Co.
Now, a cartoon blue light bulb references K-Mart’s historic blue light special past and Sears Holding Co. has distinguished the brands through separate, but interlinking, social media marketing efforts — MyKmart and MySears.
Social Done Right
Despite a history that has disconnected K-Mart’s brand from consumers, MyKmart’s launch could turn things around by starting a two-way conversation with consumers. So far MyKmart does a lot of things right, including:
- A section that allows customers to share and rate ideas on how to make K-mart better
- Polls asking for customer feedback
- Reviews organized by product and sorted by “most helpful” and latest” on the main page
- A product search that makes it easy to find, review and buy items
- Local review search
- Message boards that let consumers ask questions before buying
- Comprehensive buying guides connected to product reviews
- Profiles let people “fan” and “friend” their favorite reviewers
- “I am” lets community members define themselves, such as “I am a light sleeper,” to other members
- Visible, quick access to K-Mart’s profiles on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube
Overall, MyKmart’s design is functional and (not to sound mean here) looks better than most of the brick-and-mortar locations I’ve seen. Now, Sears Holding Co. needs to prove they’re listening by responding with effective action within both communities and both brands’ social profiles. Right now the community is too new to post results from ideas fans submit to the community, but that fact that it’s built in shows K-Mart wants to create a two-way conversation.
While K-Mart is headed in the right direction by establishing profiles linked to MyKmart/Kmart.com, it looks like they still need help figuring out how to use these social tools. Despite that I’m excited to see this brand embrace social. (And that water and pool accessories are 10 percent off! Slip N’ Slide here I come!)
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