'A way to go deeper': How Kohl’s and JCPenney view Periscope

For Kohl’s and JCPenney, Periscope is an ideal live streaming service to extend the reach of their social conversation.

Both brands have built up hype around Periscope live events, providing unique, timely content that doesn’t get lost among a large number of live streams distributed by the platform. Their success can be ascribed to an integrated approach that doesn’t separate Periscope from the brand’s overall social marketing strategy.

“Periscope helps us engage with our fans in real time, but we don’t focus on it as a single platform. Periscope is just a way to go deeper into our brand story that is delivered across different channels,” said Sheeba Philip, vp of marketing strategy and communications for JCPenney.

The department store used Periscope to tell the “Penney” story in its new campaign “Get Your Penney’s Worth.” The campaign was designed to convince the American mom that every trip to its physical store is worth their time, money and effort. As part of the initiative, JCPenney planned two #SoWorthIt events in NYC and LA that were hosted by celebrities Kristin Chenoweth and Jerry O’Connell, respectively.

From March 2 to March 3, the public in each city was invited to play Penney Drop, a game similar to Plinko. On Periscope and Twitter, JCPenney partnered with two social media influencers: Jessica Harlow in NYC and Sunny Mabrey in LA. They entertained Periscope viewers, took questions for the celebrities on site and even played Penney Drop for lucky viewers who won an e-gift card from JCPenney.

“We want to let people know what they can actually get from a penny, and we want to use social to tell that narrative. Periscope helps us unlock the power of a penny through visual storytelling,” said Philip.

JCPenney aside, Kohl’s also used Periscope, in tandem with Twitter, as a natural expansion of its social to keep the audience engaged. An official retail sponsor of the 88th Academy Awards this year, Kohl’s hosted an exclusive live viewing party on Periscope in collaboration with comedian Vanessa Bayer. There, the brand encouraged viewers to show gratitude for their friends by sharing personal stories. Participants had a chance to have their tweets read live on Oscar night.

Kohl’s live stream on Periscope raked in more than 200,000 views, according to the brand, becoming one of the “most-viewed Periscope broadcasts by a brand or retailer ever,” according to the company.

“Periscope was the perfect opportunity to drive meaningful conversation around the Oscars, while organically inserting the Kohl’s brand into the social conversation,” said Will Setliff, the company’s evp of marketing. “By connecting our brand with viewers through a live, interactive Periscope broadcast, we were able to extend our customer reach in a way that was easy for followers to engage with us.”

Brands like JCPenney and Kohl’s are very bullish on Periscope. But for the time being, the live streaming platform has not yet played as central a piece as Facebook or Twitter in most companies’ social strategy, because it’s challenging to produce content for Periscope.

“In just a few minutes, we need to get our viewers to tune in and learn more about our ‘Penney’ story. That’s a challenge,” said Sean Ryan, director of social media for JCPenney. “If you create a 10-second video for Snapchat, you have time to plan ahead. But Periscope is live, so you only have one chance to do it right.”

Six months from now, however, Periscope will become more mainstream, predicts Dan Ragan, co-founder and chief operating officer for Applause. By then, brands will feel more confident to connect Periscope with other platforms and use it in a more integrated way. For example, advertisers can cut their live streaming content into small clips and repurpose them on Instagram and YouTube.

“You cannot do it the other way around. You cannot take an Instagram video and repurpose it on Periscope,” he said. “As Periscope’s production capabilities are evolving, we think that many brands will be able to set up one Periscope campaign and pull many visual assets from there.”