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MONDAY RADIO COMMERCIAL SMACKDOWN: Kohl’s Shouldn’t Expect Great Things From This Radio Ad

Once again I find myself needing to point out:

In a radio commercial, the picture you paint in the listener’s mind is what that listener will remember.

Here’s the commercial.

They devoted the first 16 seconds (53%) of that advertisement to something that has nothing to do with and does nothing to help sell what this radio commercial is trying to sell.

This radio spot is bad from every angle.

As a story: Um…So how would the honey badger react while being told the details of Kohl’s store rewards, which were time consuming and tedious?

As a picture: I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t know what a honey badger is, much less what one looks like. Obviously I don’t get out enough.

So as a listener, I picture some ill-defined, snarling rodent-like creature. (Yeah, I’ve since looked it up and learned it’s not a rodent.)

You, however, know exactly what a honey badger looks like.

radio copywriting tips

The Honey Badger (but you already knew that)

So you pictured something close to the above illustration, right?

In a radio commercial, the pictures carry the story. The words carry the fine print.

This particular radio advertisement for Kohl’s? Well, it did indirectly educate some of us about honey badgers.



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  • Jon Brooks June 13, 2011, 1:52 am

    Funny. When we ran the commercial I did a Google to find out what the heck a Honey Badger was too! By the time I was done, I couldn’t remember the point of the ad, or who it was for.

  • Rob Frazier June 13, 2011, 7:23 am

    The Honey Badger is a meme making the rounds these days, (a pretty funny one too, I might add), hence the numerous mentions in commercials, TV show trailers, etc… Presumably the target audience is hip to the honey badger. This of course, is presumptuous and ultimately ends up as a lame attempt to capitalize on a piece of pop culture. Might have worked if they had committed and done the voice in Randall’s style, but then it might have “offended” someone, or worse, caught their attention.

  • Derek June 13, 2011, 10:28 am

    I think the commercial was geared towards those who have seen the YouTube video.

  • adamg June 13, 2011, 9:15 pm

    The ‘dude’ has become a SLOPYWRITER. And is mistaken for a great Copywriter. Let’s win a Mercury Award mentality. The science has gone out the window.
    It’s funny first is the big Point . Offend your customer-so what mentality.
    Kohl’s-our male customers are rabid Honey Badgers
    Capital One-My customers are like Vikings.
    Stanley Steemers-Even weirdos can clean your carpet..sure. you would let him in your house.

    Dan you have material but call out the copywriter or better yet the
    Committee that says”OK, you got the account dude”

  • Tim Burt June 16, 2011, 1:35 pm

    What an absolute mess. I bet this got a lot of chuckles and giggles from the 20-something ad agency reps in attendance of the editing session.

    Attention Kohls: START OVER.

    After listening to it once, all I remember was some guy screaming, then some quickly-delivered line about “Dad’s Day”.


  • Anonymous June 18, 2011, 7:27 pm

    Also, a terrible example of using $50 as something bad to win awards early and then saying you get a reward for spending $50. Which is it, good or bad because it can’t be both?

  • Matt Forrest June 20, 2011, 9:32 am

    This has been running at our stations for awhile, and it annoys me. I know what badgers are, so imaging a honey badger wasn’t a stretch, but the spot is still stupid. Sounds like a poor attempt to make Jeffrey Gitomer’s “Grandma Test” funny. That’s a rule a Mr. Gitomer teaches service-industry personnel when dealing with customers: before responding to a customer, try putting ‘grandma’ at the end, such as “Sorry, that’s not our policy…grandma.” Or, “we can’t help you unless you show your receipt…grandma.” If you wouldn’t say it to your gramda, don’t say it to your customers!

  • Neal Angell June 28, 2011, 12:33 am

    And how would that same honey badger react if you told it you had a female honey badger eagerly waiting to give it some sweet honey badger lovin’, plus a big pile of its favorite yummy-nummy honey badger treats? Probably the same way. It’s a honey badger. It doesn’t understand human words.

    By the way, I also didn’t know what a honey badger was. I was picturing something like a wolverine. And our stations also ran that commercial but, unlike Jon Brooks above, I was never curious enough to do a Google search on honey badgers. However, like Jon Brooks, I also couldn’t remember the point of the ad, or who it was for (I remember sitting in my office with the radio on and hearing snarling in the background, but I just figured it was an account rep irritated that I required more information than just the client’s business card).

  • Anonymous June 29, 2011, 5:11 pm

    I actually enjoyed the commercial. Obviously you did not read about the honey badger because somewhere in that dull and drab brain of yours a spark of laughter would have went off. For those of you who do not know the honey badger is considered the most fearless animal in the world. It was actually in the Guinness World Records. Everyone that I know that has heard it has laughed hysterically. Seeing as how no one has ever heard of you I highly doubt your knowledge in marketing.

  • Dan O'Day June 29, 2011, 5:40 pm

    Re: “Anonymous” (above): That’s great. He knows people who have “laughed hysterically” at that commercial. Now that’s a fast crowd he runs with.

  • Anonymous June 30, 2011, 9:19 pm

    Doesn’t matter what you think of this ad, Honey Badger don’t give a s***.

  • Judith July 2, 2011, 6:42 pm

    The fact that the advertisement is getting attention is one point in it’s favor. They may be targeting people that don’t live under a rock and watch those viral videos on the internet. Perhaps they are targeting a younger audience as they are the ones who have internet access and watch YouTube.

  • kuratowa July 7, 2011, 10:02 am

    Judith hit the nail on the head. This is a very specifically targeted ad to a niche market. It’s a risky move, because as Dan illustrates, there is a wide swath of potential customers than won’t get the joke, but it fits in tone with the rest of their ad campaign and works extremely effectively with the demographic it was meant to appeal to.

  • Neal Angell July 9, 2011, 12:38 am

    Gotta love the irony of someone who signs on as “Anonymous” saying “no one has ever heard of you.”

    And the advertisement isn’t getting attention. Dan just happens to be giving it some.

    But that’s a very good point about who Kohl’s is targeting (or who they should be targeting). If you do your research, you find that their target market is married women 25-50. And from the times my wife has dragged me there, I’ve observed that it’s actually closer to the higher end of that age range, women probably about 35-55. These women are far too busy with their careers and families to be wasting hours on YouTube to catch all the latest viral videos. Go ahead, take a digital recorder to Kohl’s and talk to a random sampling of customers (better put on your radio station apparel, if you’re in the business, so you look like you have a legitimate reason to be doing interviews and sticking a recording device in someone’s face). Ask if they’ve seen that wacky ROFLMAO honey badger video – mostly you’ll get a lot of blank stares.

    Kohl’s actually had a very good ad not long ago that was MUCH more effective at reaching their target. No, it didn’t have a wild, snarling animal. It had a clear, straightforward message about their hassle-free return policy. Did you know that you can return any item at any time for a full refund with a receipt? Don’t have your receipt? Well, you can still return the item for a merchandise credit good toward anything in the store or online. Now THAT’S the type of message their adult married female target will respond to (Here’s another advertising tip from someone who actually has a great deal of knowledge in marketing: People are much more willing to risk buying your product when you REMOVE the risk of buying your product).

    Point made. I certainly respect anyone’s opinion and feel free to offer up a rebuttal if you like. I just won’t waste time prolonging the debate, so you can have the satisfaction of getting the last word. I know kids like that. Have a nice day.

  • michelle July 10, 2011, 12:09 pm

    all i have to say is “honey badger dont give a isht!” so why do you?

  • Craig Allen July 17, 2011, 7:20 am

    I’ve always disliked Kohl’s double tagline. Do they want me to remember “The more you know, the more you Kohl’s”, or should I remember “Kohl’s, expect great things”? Just more sloppy writing.

  • Cathy July 22, 2011, 7:33 am

    I am a woman 49 years of age and absolutely loved this commercial. It made me stop at Kohl’s just to see if they had a stuffed HB. I love the Honey Badger, he’s a badass.

  • Dave Kallaway July 27, 2011, 7:57 am

    Cathy landed on it! Perfect answer! The Honey Badger is directed at younger hip women..Honey Badger fit that demo perfectly!

  • KennyWithaK July 29, 2011, 11:00 am

    I have to say that all the people that I associate with be it friends, co-workers, etc. have seen the video because we have presented it to them. And all fall into the 29-55 age range. Kohl’s has did research that viral’s do work. Also most people upon hearing the commercials may want to find out about this Honey Badger. I myself like the commercials.

  • Erin July 29, 2011, 11:48 am

    I agree with those who have mentioned the YouTube video. I know a lot of people, myself included, who now use the honey badger to reference something (or someone!) who should not be messed with. I think the commercial is hilarious!

  • HBN Member July 29, 2011, 1:54 pm

    The honey badger is my favorite animal. If you enjoy the honey badger as much as I do, look it up on YouTube
    Funny stuff

  • Tori September 28, 2011, 11:41 am

    Hmm. Never seen the video. I am 20, female, and an on-again off-again customer, but the ad just leaves me confused.
    On a similar subject, has anyone heard the newer radio ad with the creepy music box in the backround? What’s up with that?

  • Mr. Tea October 2, 2013, 9:29 am

    Wow… I’m once again Stunned at the Egos here from the critics that want to bash this ad because they don’t think it’s intelligent enough. What is the basic principal of advertising and marketing? Attention and Name recognition. Some of you hate it. Some love it. All of us are talking about it, which is the goal.

    If it was so easily forgettable what are you doing spending your time posting on a single radio show’s site? Psychology indicates a good possibility it’s just an attempt to inflate yourselves by proclaiming your superiority over others that make a lot of $ with a successful ad like this. These critics remind me of the type of people that call my younger colleagues and complain about their pc not working after they accidentaly kick the power cord from it’s socket. Other than critic fellowship, what is it they want to accomplish? —Tea

  • Dan O'Day October 2, 2013, 10:11 am

    @Mr. Tea: Actually, “Advertising” and “Marketing” are two different things. Neither of them has its primary goals “attention and name recognition.”

    The critics here aren’t complaining that the ad “isn’t intelligent enough.” They’re complaining that it’s incompetently conceived and executed.

    All of us are talking about it, which is the goal.

    If by “all of us” you mean everyone who has commented on my critique of the commercial, then yes, “all of us” are talking about it. I doubt, however, that the goal of Kohl’s radio advertising campaign was to get my blog readers to talk about it.

    If it was so easily forgettable what are you doing spending your time posting on a single radio show’s site?

    This is not a radio show’s site.

    I spent my time posting my critique of that radio commercial because one of the purposes of this blog is to teach people how to create effective radio advertising.