When Target first unveiled a new in-store marketing campaign that included a handful of shopping carts decorated to resemble Super Mario karts, some skeptics initially predicted mass mayhem in the shopping aisles.
Remember the Minneapolis-based retailer’s short-lived experiment with kids’ shopping carts last year? That test was quickly canned once parents complained about kids going wild with them.
But so far, Target spokesman Lee Henderson reports no major objections, fights or ankle injuries from the “Super Target Karts.”
Rather, he said the response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many shoppers have asked if they could buy one.
“When you have a Super Mario kart and you have a Target cart, how can you not blend the two together?” he said.
In addition to the redone shopping carts, Target has also placed huge cloths over its signature big, red bollards outside of select stores, transforming them into the Mario and Luigi characters.
And when customers walk into those stores, the 3-2-1 countdown jingle from the video game plays.
The in-store marketing experience went up in about one-third of Target’s stores around the country, or about 650, including 39 locations in Minnesota. The campaign is tied to the launch of Mario Kart 8 for Nintendo Switch, which went on sale Friday. It will stay up in stores for another couple of weeks.
“It’s about celebrating the excitement around the launch of the title,” Henderson said. “We’re bringing that excitement into stores in a way that only Target can.”
It’s also another example of how brick-and-mortar retailers are fighting to keep traffic coming to their stores as shoppers shift to making purchases online. One strategy is creating store experiences, not just transactions, that can’t be replicated online.
The only major criticism, he said, has been that only eight shopping carts in each participating store are decked out with the decals that feature either Mario, Luigi, or Princess Peach.
“Part of the fun and excitement is of guests going into the store and tracking one down,” he said, adding jokingly: “It’s been a good opportunity for families to teach their children about sharing and taking turns.”
And, no, in case you’re wondering, Target hasn’t gone so far as to drop banana peels and flying turtle shells throughout the store for the carts to dodge like in the video game.
The shopping cart decals, the bollard covers and the motion-activated music at the store entrances were all designed and executed by Target Creative, the retailer’s in-house agency.
Not all stores got the experience for various reasons, some of them very practical. For example, not all stores have the bollards outside or the shopping cart variation that the decals fit, Henderson said.
This is the first time that Target has wrapped its shopping carts with decorations. But it’s not the first time the bollards, which are placed outside of stores to protect them from cars running into them, have received a makeover.
Last year, Target temporarily painted them black and white to look like Pokemon balls when the Pokemon Go game became the rage among adults and kids alike. And in 2011, Target turned them into beach balls as part of a summer promotion.
It remains to be seen what other creative ways Target will find to deck out those bollards in the coming years to help bring excitement and drive traffic to stores.
As for the Nintendo Switch, the new hybrid home gaming console and handheld device that first went on sale in March, it has been flying off the shelf at Target and other retailers such as GameStop and Best Buy. So much so that it has become a bit of a treasure hunt to get a hold of one.
“We’ve been trying to keep up with demand,” Henderson said. “As soon as we get them, they sell out.”
Last week, Nintendo said it has already sold 2.74 million units of the Switch worldwide since its launch a month ago, which is higher than the number of Wii U devices it sold in its first year.