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Can A Sofa Kingdom Rep Ship My Pants?
By: Tori Mends-Cole
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To the utter glee of some pre-pubescent boys sitting nearby, two women at a local deli were lamenting the decline in good manners. One woman complained that nowadays, youngsters use “every bad word in the book!” One riveted boy exclaimed, “There’s a book?!” In fact, there are hundreds of books on profanity and many more that include curses. Curse words and sounds probably developed along with the human ability to speak, but more rapidly than language, as a way to manage or release strong emotions. Even Peter the Apostle cursed and swore following his three denials of Jesus. Cultures are fascinated with profanity.

Most people consider it funny when others curse accidentally. No wonder Kmart’s new “Ship My Pants" ad is so popular. Past attempts to use bad words for attention include: Tennessee-based Four Kings Gourmet Burgers and Wings and Sofa King Juicy Burger restaurants; both names caused minor local uproars without national attention. Oreo’s fudge-covered cookie ads that proclaimed “shut the front door,” on the other hand, actually became popular. French Connection’s fcuk campaign increased profits when it sold thousands of fcuk t-shirts in the '90s. As a side, Eau De Fcuk fragrance is still on the market!

Like FCUK, Kmart hit the right note. In a 35-second ad, “ship my pants” is repeated nine times. By the time the elderly man agrees with his wife that it really was convenient to just ship the pants, the 12-year-old in you will be snickering at the double entendre. Mature? Probably not, but better than their old fantastically upbeat Free Layaway ads, Ship My Pants is simply laugh-out-loud funny and memorable.

In a time when retailers are suffering financially and the middle class is hard pressed to spend money, Kmart had to do something to get the attention of millions of potential customers, especially when conveying yet another humdrum message about shipping. Free shipping is an expected gratuity; Kmart is, at best, decades late in joining other retailers who provide this service. Using a turn of phrase that is linguistically equivalent to “sh*t my pants,” meets the FCC’s decent TV guidelines while pushing the envelope just enough to force viewers to come to attention (swear words on TV are still taboo!) and laugh without taking offense. In less than a week, the ad has gone viral.

Nothing is foolproof, but the percentage of people who didn’t like the joke is too small to mention. So far, the ad has earned 7.6 million views on YouTube and over 37,000 Facebook Likes (20,000 of which were gained from Monday to Tuesday!) clearly indicating that this ad is well received. Kmart successfully reminded the nation that their customer base comprises all kinds of people and shipping purchases is an added free service.

In the end, Kmart has gained such a strong and favorable response that it likely shipped its own pants.

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About the Author
Tori Mends-Cole is the Communications Coordinator at the American Civil Liberties Union. She holds an M.A. in communication from the University of Maryland at College Park.
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