Kmart USA has been dealing with very intense competition lately. On one hand, Walmart and CostCo have outplayed most other department stores. On the other hand, Amazon and online retail in general have squeezed the whole category with the delivery of products to the customer’s door, at lower cost. However, in the last couple of weeks Kmart has begun to fight back with a new campaign, and it’s becoming a runaway success.

In this part of the world our exposure to the campaign is limited to the YouTube video. In the US the campaign is also being aired on TV and radio. The central proposition is that you can buy something in-store and Kmart will ship it to your home. No need to carry lots of bags, or mess around getting large products home. The campaign is called “Ship My Pants” which gives you a pretty good clue as to the overall direction.

When this article was being written there were 16 million views of the YouTube video across the globe, and climbing quickly. I find it fascinating that when a brand gets the marketing formula right it can effect their brand across the whole world, not just in target jurisdictions.

Time magazine has commented on the video stating that, “…the ad has stirred up plenty of chatter across the web, drawing lots of attention to the Kmart name.” This single campaign appears to be connecting with US customers to help lift the brand out of a rut of irrelevance.

The ad works well because it walks the line between offensive and hilarious – an approach that the Internet is pretty comfortable entertaining. In 30 seconds the ad takes you from shocked to laughing to interested. It is a brilliantly directed piece of marketing content that engages the audience in ways that even the creative team behind the campaign could not have anticipated.

The magic part of this campaign for Kmart is what is happening to it on social media. It is spawning a wave of response videos and images, some of which are “going viral” in their own right. The Twitter hash tag #Shipmypants has been a major trend for over a week. Of course all of this user-generated activity is leading traffic back to Kmart. It is a marketers dream come true.

If there is one lesson to be taken from Kmart it is that brushing away conservative worries and taking a bold creative risk can pay off in a big way. The pay off will be even bigger, on a worldwide scale in fact, if you prepare the campaign for social media.

These days marketers have to loosen control and let brands consumers interact with messaging. Have the courage to do so and you may have a runaway success. And nobody wants to miss out on an opportunity like that.