Sears Treats Consumers Like They're Total Idiots

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Here's the best thing Sears Holdings (SHLD) has done since it served popcorn in its catalog department:

But this is about 1,000X better:

I don't think I've witnessed a better turnaround than the one Domino's Pizza (DPZ) pulled off.

There's a crucial difference, at least in the two videos, between how Sears and Dominos portrayed their respective situations.

Dominos exists in the same world as the rest of us. When it struggled, it not only acknowledged but fully embraced its reality. Throughout Dominos' turnaround campaign, it's obvious that CEO Patrick Doyle demanded complete and total humility in the company's messaging.

We suck. It's unacceptable. Hold us accountable. We promise we'll be better.

Although Sears might not even realize this, there's an undertone of arrogance and delusion in its marketing.

Sears gets it right at the beginning of that spot -- seemingly hip shoppers park at Sears because it sucks and nobody shops there. It provides easy access to the mall and a quick getaway from the movies. But just a few seconds in, unlike Dominos, Sears goes off message. Or at least the message it ought to be sending. The girls in that commercial should have spit on the floor, maybe shoplifted and left in disgust, as the screen fades to black and slow white lettering announces:

We're Sears. And we have disgraced what was once a national treasure. We're going away for a while. But, when we come back, we promise to innovatively usher in the next phase of physical retail.

Or something like that ...

But, in effect, Sears chose to insult the consumers' intelligence.

First, by illustrating a scenario where all of these great experiences exist at Sears -- in plain view -- it's telling the viewer, even if implicitly, you're a loser. How could you let all of the cool and exciting things we've got going on in our stores take you by surprise?

A very closely-related second -- as TheStreet has detailed in recent weeks, you can't count on the clean, straightforward and positive experience Sears portrays in that ad. Most of us walk into Sears stores and see the complete opposite.

Simply put, until you have your junk together you better not sell an experience that doesn't exist across your entire population.

Dominos was smart; it didn't set an impossible standard for itself. It implied that the pictures you took of your pizza wouldn't look like the ugly ones it led off its advertisement with. But it never deluded or misled the viewer with the false notion that every pizza it sent out would be perfect.

Effectively, that's what Sears did by saying Our stores are empty. You think we suck. But you're wrong. Here's how it really is.

No Sears. That's not how it really is.

It's funny how the company accused TheStreet's Brian Sozzi, me and some of you of cherry picking an unrepresentative sample of images of horribly unkempt Sears store, yet, in its own marketing it's even more selective. Does anybody in their right, sane and honest mind believe that ...

  • The store those girls were shopping in are even close to representative of the 2,000 or so outlets the company operates;
  • and that those girls -- attractive and always in search of style and cool consumption opportunities -- are stumbling through those stores, finding themselves distracted from original plans by the goods and Sears' presentation of those goods?

Granted, Sears is attempting to change perceptions and create new ones. But you can't do that until you successfully pull the needle out of your arm and go cold turkey. Sears is attempting to turn up clean at Christmas dinner after a late night and early morning of injecting itself with the same drugs responsible for the strung out carcass it has turned itself into.

--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.

Rocco Pendola is a columnist for TheStreet. Pendola makes frequent appearances on national television networks such as CNN and CNBC as well as TheStreet TV. Whenever possible, Pendola uses hockey, Springsteen or Southern California references in his work. He lives in Santa Monica.

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