Kmart's Teen Site Is, Like, Totally Bogus

Last Updated Sep 9, 2010 6:51 PM EDT

Kmart has launched its own fledgling social network for girls, but it has a lot of growing up to do if it doesn't want to just drive its intended teen/tween audience back to Facebook.

Awhile back, I criticized J.C. Penney (JCP) for launching a teen initiative that was so ambitious that the company couldn't possibly sort out just what was effective and what wasn't. Kmart has the opposite problem. The social network, which is dubbed Stylesip, invites teens to tune in but really doesn't have much for them that's not already on the retailer's main website. It's little more than a product pitch made in pidgin teenspeak.

With Stylesip, Kmart is courting double trouble. First, it risks turning off the teens it's design to interest. Second, the blatant nature of the sell may tick off parents -- many of whom, given their kids' interest in the site, would be participants in the MyKmart social network. Sears Holding has been developing social networks both for its namesake stores and Kmart to get customers more closely involved in their operations. In those cases, however, they've been providing attractive benefits, such as providing information about deals, running sweepstakes and even offering loyalty card points -â€" which translate into product discounts -â€" for writing reviews.

While it promises exclusive promotions, Stylesip doesn't seem to have that much going for it yet. The site's welcoming blog post commences:
Hi everyone! We are so excited to shout from the rafters and keep announcing: WELCOME TO STYLESIP!!! After introducing ourselves, this is the first blog post to precede many, many more. We're going to discuss trends, events, news, pretty much all things fun and fashion for all of us divas and fashionistas!
Then it almost immediately goes into a Kmart brand pitch: "So to follow up on that, one thing that we're immensely stoked about is the launch of the Selena Gomez clothing line, Dream Out Loud, launching exclusively at Kmart stores in the U.S. on August 1st."

And the immediate follow up post announces: "Hello! We are Stylesip and we are SO excited to meet you!"

It's not like anyone is asking Kmart to elevate teen discourse, but the discussion comes across as a public relations rep mangling adolescent speak rather than anything authentic.

Further, the celebrity and fashion chatter that is supposed to entrance adolescents is even more self serving, essentially a latter-day ad for the retailer's teen brands that trumpets sightings of Kmart clothing in adolescent publications, such as Seventeen magazine. At least that should tick off J.C. Penney, which has an ongoing deal with the publications.

The thinly disguised hard sell is likely to be as transparent to media savvy teens as it is for the adults who fund them. For example, under the heading Bright Tights, with no reference to outside fashion trends or trendsetters, it simply declares: "It's the season of the leg and no better way to highlight it than with bright, vivid tights in eye catching red, blue, purple, hot pink (OMG! Leopard print numbers are amaze!)"

Of course, the declaration is set alongside Kmart tights. However, not a one of them is in a leopard print. It's like the people putting the site together aren't really trying.

To reach back for an exclamation from another era: Yikes!

Parents who see what Kmart is up to with Stylesip may be turned off enough to stop participating in the company's social network, which would undo a lot of good marketing work at a time when parent Sears Holdings is fairly determined to minimize sales support while it pays down debt.

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