TROY, MI: Embattled Kmart is quietly talking to PR firms about doing consumer-directed PR as it launches a $40 million national advertising campaign.Detroit sources said the bankrupt retailer has approached at least two PR agencies so far.
"It's all coming down quickly,
said one source. "They're looking for PR aimed at getting people to go back to Kmart."
Some in Detroit expect Kmart to pick an agency that CEO Charles Conaway has worked with in past jobs, but others said the choice could be a firm not known for retail PR. Lori McTavish, Kmart's VP of communications, came from the auto industry, and therefore may be more comfortable working with agencies she knows from that business.
Kmart recently launched its new ad campaign from agencies TBWA/Chiat/Day and Don Coleman Advertising with commercials directed by film icon Spike Lee. The ads try to position Kmart as offering low prices and stylish merchandise.
Kmart filed for bankruptcy in late January. Rumors of store closings have swirled around the retailer ever since, and customers, uncertain of its future, have been shopping elsewhere.
Kmart needs to assure customers that it plans to continue serving its customers, PR experts agreed.
PR also needs to help Kmart clearly define its points of difference from its main rivals. Target has become known for discount chic merchandising.
Wal-Mart, which recently became the largest retailer in the world, markets its low prices and efficient service.
Kmart has been plagued by an ambivalent image in recent years. It has tried marketing based on low prices, but also sports such brand names as Martha Stewart. Even its bringing back the famed Blue Light specials last year tended to confuse consumers rather than create new business for the retailer, PR experts said.