Kohl's Just Made One 'Star Wars' Fan Happy With a Chewbacca Surprise

How the Retailer Leveraged a Viral Video to Come Out on Top

Published On
May 23, 2016

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It was the laugh heard round the world. Late last week, shopper Candace Payne posted a Facebook video of herself wearing the new Star Wars Chewbacca mask she'd bought at Kohl's, and viral stardom ensued. But rather than just chuckling and moving on, Kohl's reacted quickly by creating its own video response within 24 hours of Ms. Payne's hilarious debut. The real-time marketing strategy resulted in record social engagement for the Menomonee Falls, Wisc.-based retailer.

"We have a two-way conversation with customers on social media all the time, so we were prepared," said Nancy Carruth, senior VP-marketing for the 1,167-unit chain. "The most important thing is how nimble the team is, how they act with speed and really stay connected to the conversation."

In Kohl's two-minute video, the retailer visits Ms. Payne and her family to give them each a Chewbacca mask, along with $2,500 in Kohl's gift cards and 10,000 points in its Yes2You loyalty reward program. The retailer, which has 38 million customers in its loyalty program, used the #AlltheGoodStuff hashtag, which is part of its current marketing campaign, for the post.

Ms. Carruth noted that the response was executed in-house through Kohl's social team. The company works with Brooklyn-based Huge on social activities.

By Monday, the Kohl's video had received over 30 million views-- a record for a Kohl's loyalty video -- and as of Monday afternoon was one of Facebook's top performers, along with Ms. Payne's original post which has garnered 135 million views.

Digital content engagement around Kohl's has increased by 101% from the four-day period of May 18-22 compared with the week-earlier period of May 13-17, according to Amobee Brand Intelligence, which analyzes such trends across mobile, video, web and social data. The firm found that Kohl's gave itself a boost by uploading its own video giving Star Wars-themed merchandise to Ms. Payne.

"Kohl's relevant and timely response not only contributed to a spike in positive sentiment for the retailer, but demonstrates that they are in touch with how people are engaging online with their brand," said Assaf Henkin, senior VP of brand intelligence at Amobee.

Though the Chewbacca mask is sold out on Kohl's ecommerce site and in most stores, the retailer is still determining whether or not it will return to stock. The chain will continue to feature Star Wars merchandise, said Ms. Carruth.

The unexpected viral success is good news following a two-week period in which Kohl's and a host of other retailers reported sales declines. Earlier this month, Kohl's posted a 3.7% drop, to $4 billion, in first-quarter sales, compared with the year-earlier period. Same-store sales fell 3.9% for the chain, which also cited a plummet in earnings.

This story originally appeared at AdAge.com