Kmart's Holiday Spots to Showcase Shift in Approach to Ethnic Markets

Rather Than Segmenting Shoppers, Retailer Looks to Make Diversity Key Theme in Its Campaigns, CMO Says

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NEW YORK ( -- The first clue that something needed to change was the shopping carts. Or, more specifically, what was in them. Hispanic customers were snapping up styles from Jaclyn Smith, a Kmart designer meant to target the general market.

"Jaclyn Smith was selling to Hispanics and Jaclyn isn't centered in the popular culture of the Hispanic market," said Mark Snyder, chief marketing officer at Kmart. "We had a lot of diverse ethnicity on the floor, and a lot of cross shopping between products and segments."

Armed with that knowledge, Mr. Snyder began analyzing how the retailer was marketing to ethnic consumers. Kmart was, it turned out, presenting separate creative briefs to its agency DraftFCB, as well as referring to the groups as completely separate segments internally. For its agency, that meant receiving a brief for the general market, one for the Hispanic market, one for the African-American market, and so on.

"Initially, that made some sense to me, because there are cultural nuances," Mr. Snyder said. "But, what occurred to me was we had this big gap. It didn't seem we were reflecting the full ethnic makeup of the Kmart-shopper base in any single communication, and that was very problematic."

To close that gap, Kmart stopped thinking about minority consumers as separate segments and began presenting its agency with one single brief per campaign. On the agency side, that means that DraftFCB's multicultural experts now have a seat at the table full-time. In the past, those people would come into the room only when it was time to talk about ethnic consumers.

Mr. Snyder says that some of the niche marketing Kmart was doing was unnecessary given that the retailer was trying to relay much the same message to all of its consumers. However, he acknowledges that it would be foolish to walk away completely from Spanish-language spots or programming and networks that target ethnic groups.

The shift has resulted in a massive holiday campaign that is set to feature upward of 90 models. The spots are to feature an African-American family, Asian family, Hispanic family, Anglo-American family and a multi-ethnic family. "I looked back at the holiday advertising we've done in past years, and it's produced tremendous results. But I see a very traditional Midwestern Christmas expression in the advertising," he said. "Not everybody celebrates in the snow-covered suburbs of Chicago."

Mr. Snyder was unable to share specific details about the upcoming spots, as they have yet to be shot. But, he said, that the overriding theme will center on the idea that "everybody celebrates differently, and the way you choose to celebrate is the right way." Likewise, there will be a "full expression of ethnic diversity" in each spot even though the entire cast won't be featured in each spot.

The holiday campaign will be the biggest expression to date of Kmart's new approach to ethnic markets, though there will be plenty more to come in 2011. Mr. Snyder is particularly cognizant of the impact the 2010 Census figures will likely have on the market.

"The numbers are going to turn everything on its head," he said. "At that point we're going to realize the melting pot we've become. The general market is the ethnic market."

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