Kmart repositions execs

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Kmart Corp. is changing marketing leadership as the war for market share among the top three discounters heats up.

Kmart moved Steve Feuling, 40, to senior VP-marketing, from chief marketing officer at BlueLight.com. Mr. Feuling previously worked at Clorox Co. as well as online college-search firm Achieva.com.

Larry Davis, 58, also senior VP-marketing, left after five years to become managing director of Coles Myer's Target chain in Australia. He is the second top marketing executive to leave Kmart recently; Chief Marketing Officer Brent Willis resigned this spring after six months and Kmart spokesman David Karraker said the retailer will not "in the near future" fill the post.

Both Mr. Feuling and Doug Meissner, senior VP-sales and marketing, who takes over Mr. Davis' weekly circular and in-store promotions and direct-marketing duties, report to Cecil Kearse, senior VP-general merchandise manager for Kmart.

Mr. Feuling will be in charge of print, not including the weekly ad circular, along with broadcast advertising, brand and marketing strategies and multicultural marketing and advertising. Falling under the domain of Mr. Meissner are in-store events, promotions and advertising, and direct marketing such as the retailer's "School Spirit" fundraising campaign.

Mr. Feuling takes up his post as Kmart is engaged in war of words with Target Corp. over Kmart's "Dare to Compare" program, an in-store effort listing comparable prices on similar products. Target sued Kmart, charging the listed prices were inaccurate, then put out a statement saying it had "forced" Kmart to rescind the effort. Kmart fired back that Target withdrew the lawsuit because the charges were unfounded. Mr. Karraker said Kmart would continue the "Dare to Compare" program, but will no longer name competitor's prices. Instead, Kmart will list a reduced price and the original price.

Meanwhile, Interpublic Group of Cos.-backed Don Coleman Advertising, Southfield, Mich., Kmart's multicultural agency, won a shootout with general agency of record, Omnicom Group's TBWA/Chiat/Day, New York, for a campaign backing its chief price-war vehicle, the "BlueLight Always" initiative, a move to permanently lower prices on up to 50,000 products and position the discounter more akin to Wal-Mart as a low-price leader.

New spots show animated blue lights dancing around the store, lowering prices in a scene reminiscent of Wal-Mart's smiley-face character which rolls back prices.

A Kmart spokesman said the company greenlighted Don Coleman's BlueLight work after focus-group research. A TBWA/Chiat/Day spokesman said his shop was busy with holiday work and developing a Kmart campaign for next year so the assignment was "handed" to Don Coleman. "There is no turmoil within Kmart's advertising department or between any of our agencies," said Mr. Karraker.

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