Kmart Sees Incredible Customer Engagement Opportunity Through Ugly Sweater Holiday Challenge

With Christmas just 24 days away, the holiday season is in full swing and what does that mean at Kmart?

The #UglySweaterforBetter Social Media Challenge, which launched Nov. 28. Each day through Dec. 24, Kmart will donate $1 to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for every qualifying Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter post that tags @Kmart and @stjude and includes the campaign hashtag: #UglySweaterforBetter.

Showcasing ugly holiday sweaters is the path toward a great charitable donation from Kmart to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Loyalty360 talked to Kmart CMO Kelly Cook about this engaging holiday campaign.

How long has the Ugly Sweater Challenge been going on, what has been the response, and what are your goals for it from a customer engagement/customer experience perspective?

Cook: We’ve seen a strong and positive response so far, with celebrities, TV personalities, companies, and individuals posting pictures on social media of their ugly holiday sweaters to trigger a $1 donation from Kmart to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The #UglySweaterforBetter campaign is a new addition to Kmart’s annual campaign to raise millions for St. Jude’s lifesaving research and treatment of childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. This challenge is designed to be an easy and fun way for individuals to donate to St. Jude this holiday. There are only three steps: Post, challenge and tag @Kmart @StJude and include the #UglySweaterforBetter.

We’re seeing so many ridiculously awesome, festive ugly sweaters populate social media platform feeds, and this gives Kmart an incredible opportunity to engage with customers in an authentic, natural way by commenting on their posts and reposting them on Kmart’s social platforms. In addition to the challenge, Kmart has other ways that members can give back this holiday to add more value to our customer experience. New this year are totes featuring artwork created by St. Jude patients. They are for sale for just $1.99 at all Kmart stores, with 100 percent of the proceeds benefiting St. Jude. Back by popular demand is an exclusive $5.00 holiday bear ornament available for purchase at Kmart stores or online at $1 of the proceeds benefits St. Jude. Members can also easily make donations to St. Jude online via a link at

Since 2006, Kmart has been one of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s top fundraising corporate partners, raising more than $105 million for patients and families. We are constantly finding new and innovative ways to reach and encourage our members to raise funds and awareness for St. Jude. Interactive campaigns like #UglySweaterforBetter help spark shopper engagement and lead to millions in donations from members and associates to St. Jude.

Brands often talk about the importance of making emotional connections with customers. This social media campaign seems to achieve that in a big way. Can you talk about those emotional connections during the holiday season?

Cook: Fundraising for St. Jude is core to our company’s culture. Each holiday season, Kmart unites millions of people for a unique mission: To help St. Jude find cures and save the lives of seriously ill children. We say that the most popular purchase at Kmart this holiday is a donation to St. Jude. It’s not millions donated by one person, but millions of members donating $1, $3, or $5 to the organization. Kmart members and associates can feel good knowing that every dollar donated fuels the pioneering research that leads to significant scientific breakthroughs.

In this mobile age, a social media campaign like this seems to be the perfect fit for the holiday season?

Cook: Yes, and we designed the campaign strategically with mobile and social media in mind. Ugly holiday sweaters are a fabulous fad that everyone loves, and it’s very common to see photos of ugly holiday sweaters posted on social media throughout the holidays. People also love posting selfies on social media. It’s a winning combination where all you need to do is show off your favorite ugly holiday sweater and challenge someone to do the same to raise money for the incredible patients and families of St. Jude.

Tying the campaign to such a well-known charity also seems to lend itself nicely to heightened customer engagement?

Cook: Everything we do at Kmart centers around our Shop Your Way members–and they’ve told us year after year that supporting the wonderful cause of St. Jude is important to them. That’s why we look for ways to go beyond simply asking for donations for our charity partners. We’re always thinking of how we can engage our members in fresh new ways and tap into the emotional connection between the brand. The #UglySweaterforBetter campaign is a fun, potentially viral way to do exactly that.

We’re proud that as result of our associates’ efforts, Kmart has raised a remarkable $105 million for St. Jude, more than any company in the hospital’s history. This allows St. Jude to continue groundbreaking research and treatment all while keeping their founding promise that no family receives a bill from St. Jude for anything – not for treatment, travel, housing or food – because all a family should worry about is helping their child live.

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