Friday, March 26, 2010

Kenmore Live Studio—Can Sears Resurrect Its Brand?

We just visited a fascinating experiment from Sears called Kenmore Live Studio. Dubbed a “social media factory”, the basic idea is that this will become a physical space to showcase the Kenmore brand. While we’ve been lamenting a lack of creativity, this is certainly a concept that is pioneering a new direction.

Kenmore Live Studio is located on the corner of North and Wells in Chicago. It is a curious place to put the concept, a trade area that is more restaurant and/or art gallery than retail. It will not have the walk-by traffic that one would associate with “pop-up” locations but may be fine for the purposes of a destination draw. The space is designed to be a gallery of sorts for the Kenmore brand, with the focal area being a stage/demonstration area for cooking classes and live events. This content is then edited live and disseminated via Kenmore’s Facebook page… The format just opened with plans to be around for six months. Generally closed during the day, the main interactions will be on evenings and weekends. They have already hosted chefs, a cookie cook-off and a demonstration for organization tips.

This is an intriguing idea—part social media, part pop-up—that explores new ways that brands will begin to interact with customers in the future. Interestingly, nothing is for sale, so the real measure will be in visibility for the Kenmore brand (or, at minimum, new Facebook friends. There are now just 439 of us, so there is tremendous room for growth for a brand that is in tens of millions of American homes).

We did not see the concept in full action though we did drive-by on a weekend night and the huge flat screen TV does draw interest from the streets. You can also watch the space live on Facebook and measure crowd appeal. The success will obviously lie in content programming—a quick look today reveals no “scheduled” events, only past ones, and this kind of medium needs constant attention.

To the bigger picture, we wonder about the mother brand, Sears, and its future. While it seems to clearly be losing the brick and mortar war in the Sears format (year upon year upon year of comp store declines is our real indicator, not how much profitability can be wrung from the box…), they do seem to be doing a lot of things right in the e-commerce space. The web site and sales continue to grow; they remain leaders in creating site to store solutions with ideas like My Gofer and do seem to be very aggressive with social media, mobile apps and the like. Much of this may be window dressing if the core stores can’t turn around but slowly, perhaps, the image of Sears is beginning to change.

Kenmore Live Studio is another compelling glimpse into a multi-channel future.


  1. Minor correction: I think Kenmore Live Studio is at Huron and Wells -- a little closer to the "River North Design District".

  2. Hey Neil,
    Can you think of any instance where a "dead" brand has been resurrected? I can only think of one instance in my 40+ years in retailing. That was when the Fisk Tire brand was resurrected to alow early discounters to advertise a "discount" on a "branded" tire. It sold quite well for several years.

  3. Resurrection is hard to do....but Kenmore is hardly dead, just a bit dormant of late.
    And I'm now one of 753 fans!

  4. And thanks for the address correct--just a brain cramp leading to a future blog. For you techno-fans, Walgreens is testing total self-checkout at their North & Wells location....

  5. Juat a quick update. Saw an impressive Kenmore commercial on TV, they have kept up live weekend events, with Ty Pennington in studio last weekend....and, I now am one of 16,303 fans!

  6. There are now over 135,000 fans on Facebook. Remember, I was number 439. Shows the viral nature of social media and some of the effect that the Experience store must be having