Ever see a commercial or billboard and wonder, “What were they thinking?” Not every campaign is marketing gold — and some are just plain weird — but sometimes the really odd ones make you take notice. Grabbing attention is half the battle in marketing and advertising, so weirder can often be better.
For retailers, the battle for attention can be even harder. Consumers are constantly inundated with images, flashing lights, and loud noises that try to capture their attention. Often what it takes to get noticed is the unexpected. These seven retailers went out on a limb with some weird marketing campaigns. Some of them worked and some of them didn’t, but they were all weird enough to grab the required attention.
1. STAPLES' ALICE COOPER COMMERCIAL
When you think of office supplies, shock rocker Alice Cooper is probably not the first image that comes to mind. That’s why this Staples’ spot featuring both Cooper and his hit song “School’s Out” (done at first as in-store muzak) is a bit of a surprise. Seeing Cooper’s raccoon-eyed face under florescent lights and next to brightly colored spiral notebooks is a striking contrast.
When you hear the song playing in the background with lyrics like “school’s out for summer,” the connection makes a bit more sense. Then, when the girl cast as his daughter says, “I thought you said school was out forever,” it ties the theme together and strangely makes sense. Plus, the idea of Cooper being a “normal” dad is kind of adorable.
2. IKEA’S “MANLAND”
If there’s anything advertising has taught us, it’s that men hate shopping. That stereotype inspired Swedish furniture maker Ikea to build a “daddy daycare” of sorts to house the poor heterosexual men that get dragged to the superstore by their girlfriends and wives. This area, nicknamed “Manland,” has TVs, snacks, and a foosball table to keep the men from dying of boredom.
While the idea is cute and certainly does ease some retail-phobic men’s pain, it doesn’t appeal to Ikea’s audience as a whole. “Manland” is really only targeted towards heterosexual males who hate shopping, therefore ignoring all gay, single, and enthusiastic male shoppers. Of course, maybe the rest of Ikea is their playground.
3. TARGET’S FASHION WEEK LIGHT SHOW
Mass retailer Target wanted to get the attention of New York Fashion Week attendees. While Target may not be a brand you see strutting the catwalk, the retailer has made a name for itself selling trendy and affordable clothing.
To grab attention, Target turned to the streets. The retailer rented street-facing rooms at the Standard Hotel in Manhattan’s trendy Meatpacking District. At sundown, the curtains in the rooms were thrown open and 66 go-go dancers in day-glo suits danced to music from DJ Sam Spiegal. The spectacle created a light show that approximately 3,000 people watched live. The YouTube video of the event has spawned over 12 million views.
4. KMART'S “SHIP MY PANTS” SPOT
It’s unlikely that you haven’t already seen Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” spot, either on TV or spread across the web. The phrase “ship my pants” sounds shockingly close to another less savory expression and leads to a humorous spot without actually being “dirty.”
So far, the commercial has been viewd over 20 million times on Kmart’s YouTube channel alone. That’s not counting the millions of views the spot has on other channels, like TVPromosNow.
5. WALMART COMMERCIAL SEES KISS AS NEW HIRES
Where seeing Alice Cooper in the aisles of Staples was a strange surprise, seeing the band KISS as employees of Walmart in a commercial promoting their album “Sonic Boom” is just plain strange. In the spot, the outrageously dressed members of KISS act as Walmart employees — stocking shelves, decorating cakes, and scanning items at the register.
On the surface, the idea seems like it would be funny. But the slow movement and cheesy dialog of the scenes really drags it down. It relies too much on the idea that the KISS members look out of place among the Walmart aisles, instead of making real jokes. On top of bad execution, it’s never really entirely clear what the commercial is supposed to be promoting.
6. GAMESTOP’S RUSSIAN SUPERHERO
Video game retailer Gamestop may be the winner of this list when it comes to strange. There are so many perplexing things that appear in its commercial featuring a Russian superhero. First, the accent of the superhero, who appears to save a women from being mugged, is so thick that you question at first whether he is speaking Russian or English. Then he opens his cape and things get really weird.
Beneath his cape is a utility belt holding what the superhero refers to as “cosmic power sausages.” The cosmic sausages apparently also double as nunchakus — at least the way this superhero is using them. The punch line to the whole commercial is to “be a Russian superhero that’s actually cool” with the store's exclusive "Red Son" content for the DC superheroes fighting game "Injustice: Gods Among Us," but who can think about that after seeing cosmic power sausage nunchakus? The spot makes you both offended for Russians and a bit hungry.
7. KMART’S “SHOW YOUR JOE” CHRISTMAS SPOT
Kmart gets another mention on the list for its weird-yet-intriguing “Show Your Joe” spot. You likely saw this gem of a commercial making the social media rounds during the holiday season. So far, the ad has over 17 million views on YouTube, so the off-color subject must have struck a chord (pun intended) with consumers.
The spot starts out innocently enough, with what appears to be an attractive, all-male bell choir. It is totally adorable until the table is pulled away and the men beginning ringing their own crotches to play the tune “Jingle Bells.” The spot, meant to promote Kmart’s line of Joe Boxer shorts, plays on the age-old idea that sex sells — and in this case, at least based on views, it worked.