Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sears to tweens: "We're cool!" Tweens to Sears: "No, you're not."

Another example of a retailer trying to fight perceptions instead of focusing on its wheelhouse: reports that struggling Sears is courting tweens with a bunch of online junk:

The traditional retailer known for its print catalog is taking a decidedly untraditional approach to back-to-school marketing, blanketing the online world by partnering with just about every youth-focused social, virtual and entertainment network out there -- all in hot pursuit of 8- to 14-year-olds that don't exactly see Sears as fashion forward.

"Our belief is that, particularly for this tween market, there's a little bit of undiscovered opportunity within Sears," said Richard Gerstein, Sears' chief marketing officer. "Part of what ... Sears needs to do is build credibility with this tween market. There are a lot of people out there that have that credibility, so we've partnered with them to help us do that."
Two things about this approach:

1. You can't co-opt someone else's credibility in an area where you have none of your own. You can't steal someone else's story. And you can't fool people into thinking you're something you're not--especially the most marketing-savvy generation ever.

2. If you're a 100-year old company and you call your business a "well-kept secret " or an "undiscovered opportunity" among a particular customer base, turn out the lights. If they haven't found you after 100 years, you're probably lost for good.

So what should Sears do instead? I don't know for sure, but it begins with conceding some of the audience and admitting that being uncool is still better than being out of business.

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