Kohl’s Reaps Marketing Bonanza From ‘Chewbacca Mom’

May 23, 2016, 1:42 PM UTC
Facebook screenshot

Kohl’s (KSS) has gotten an unexpected marketing boost from an amateur video a customer made of herself laughing hysterically as she tries on a Chewbacca mask in one of the retailer’s parking lots.

The video features Candace Payne, a Dallas-area customer, laughing to the point of tears last week as she puts on a mask based on the Star Wars character that speaks in Chewbacca’s voice. The clip has been seen by 135 million people as of Monday morning, making it the most watched video ever on Facebook (FB) Live. That easily eclipses the 10 million people who watched BuzzFeed reporters make a watermelon explode with rubber bands last month.

That means 135 million and counting (with millions more having seen the clip on YouTube) have heard someone talk about what Kohl’s sells and imply how easy it was to return items. That compares to the 34.4 million people who watched the Oscars in February for which Kohl’s was the exclusive department store sponsor.

And another 30 million people have seen the video Kohl’s posted on its Facebook page of the retailer’s employees showing up at Payne’s home to give her and her family Star Wars swag (including the Chewbacca mask, which Payne said in the video she didn’t plan to share with her kids) along with $2,500 worth of Kohl’s gift cards. That is a complete bargain next to the millions Kohl’s reportedly spent to be a sponsor of the Oscars. (J.C. Penney (JCP) opted out of being an Oscars advertiser last year and has hinted it was pricey.)

What’s more, Payne herself seems to represent the core Kohl’s shopper: suburban mothers of young children looking for bargains, making her more relatable to fellow customers than Hollywood actresses.

The free advertising is welcome for Kohl’s: the mid-tier department store disappointed investors badly earlier this month when it reported a 3.9% decline in comparable sales in the first quarter.

Anyone hoping to buy the talking Chewbacca mask for themselves are out of luck. The item has sold out at Kohl’s and other retailers, including Walmart and Toys R Us.

The viral video’s impact on sales of the item is reminiscent of the success Walmart’s (WMT) bakery business had in November when a customer posted a hilarious video of himself literally singing the praises of Pattie Labelle’s sweet potato pies.


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