Kohl's Steps Up Marketing for Anticipated Brutal Holiday Season

Will Increase Digital, Social-Media Spend 25%, Amp Up Radio

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Kohl's is ramping up its radio, digital media and direct-mail marketing programs this year, as it looks to compete in what is expected to be another rough holiday for retailers.

The creative portion of the new Kohl's campaign will be keenly focused on value, highlighting a plethora of sales and savings opportunities.
The creative portion of the new Kohl's campaign will be keenly focused on value, highlighting a plethora of sales and savings opportunities.
The retailer plans to increase spending in digital and social media by 25% to support an expected 30% increase in online sales. Direct e-mail will also be a key part of Kohl's strategy, given that its database of shopper e-mails has grown by more than 50% in the last year. It plans to send out 17 e-mails in November and 30 in December, adding the ability for consumers to post sales offers to their Facebook pages.

In radio, the retailer simply said it would be "significantly" increasing its radio buys in top markets. A national radio spot targeting the Hispanic market is also planned for the first time. Two 30-second brand spots, a number of 15- and 30-second promotional spots, and in-store marketing will round out the retailer's robust holiday marketing plans.

"Kohl's has taken advantage of current media marketplace conditions and optimized mediums with a high return on investment to ensure an even stronger presence than last year," the retailer said in a statement.

Kohl's plans to increase radio and digital spend mirror trends seen a year ago, when retailers looked both to less expensive media, as well as media that could provide an immediate call to action. Last year, Kohl's spent $138 million in the fourth quarter, down 12% from $158 million the year prior, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The creative portion of the campaign will built on "The More You Know, the More You Kohl's" messaging. It will be keenly focused on value, highlighting a plethora of sales and savings opportunities and reminding shoppers how much they've saved on each receipt. McCann Erickson is Kohl's agency of record.

"Our campaign educates customers about how to make their money work harder for them by taking advantage of all of the great brands, savings tools and conveniences that Kohl's offers," Julie Gardner, exec VP-chief marketing officer, said in a statement. "Kohl's customers don't have to wait until late in the season to be able tot get the best deals."

Indeed, Kohl's holiday marketing kicks off on Nov. 2, and its first holiday sale, a Power Hours pricing promotion, will be Nov. 6-7. The retailer's aggressive holiday posturing, even before Black Friday, foreshadows another season of steep promotions, and is likely to mirror efforts at competitors like JCPenney and Macy's. Nov. 11 to 21 will be a Christmas Kickoff Sale; Nov. 13-14 stores will hold a Mega Sale; and Nov. 20-21, Kohl's will mark down everything in the store for the "It's All on Sale" sale.

"We continue to listen to our customers and give them what they want, what we believe to be more opportunities to save than any other national department store on thoughtful, sought-after gifts," Ms. Gardner said.

Online, the retailer will promote sales events throughout November and December with nine homepage takeovers of sites including AOL, MSN and Yahoo. Also, at more than 30 newspaper websites, consumers will be able to view select Kohl's products through online ads, without leaving the newspaper's site. TV spots will air against shows including "Grey's Anatomy," "The Office" and "CSI."

Kohl's has become a stiff competitor, grabbing market share in the recession. Sales at stores open at least a year rose 5.5% in September, following two months of positive same-store sales. Rivals Macy's and JCPenney have continued to post sales declines over the last three months.

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