Here’s how one video delighted millions — and maybe even gave a shot in the arm to a struggling retailer.
Texas mom Candace Payne posted a video of herself to Facebook FB, +1.34% from a parking lot after she returned a shirt to Kohl’s KSS, -0.89% that was too big and instead picked up a “Star Wars” mask on sale. The Chewbacca mask emits the character’s signature sound effect when the moving mouth opens. Payne tries it on, and after the mouth opens, she erupts into uncontrollable laughter.
“Oh, I’m such a happy Chewbacca!” she cries out.
And the Internet loves it.
Payne posted the video through Facebook Live, a new feature Facebook started testing in December 2015. So far, Payne’s video has garnered more than 136.5 million views and 3.2 million shares since its initial posting on Facebook (not to mention that the video has been re-posted dozens of other places). That’s far more than the 10.7 million views Buzzfeed got with its exploding watermelon video, the former record holder for Facebook Live views.
It’s also more views than the original Buzzfeed post about the famous dress. Still, it trails behind the 220 million views for Sneezing Baby Panda (to be fair, that video was posted in 2006, so it’s had a decade to rack up views) and the most viewed YouTube video of all time, “Gangnam Style,” which has 2.5 billion views. YouTube is a unit of Alphabet’s Google GOOG, -0.16%
Even Peter Mayhew, the actor who plays Chewbacca, weighed in. “Absolutely wonderful! Cheers,” he commented in a Reddit thread about the video. Days later — on his birthday, no less — he tweeted that the video was still making him smile:
But if there’s one audience with whom this video has been an even bigger hit, it’s the folks over at Kohl’s, as 136.5 million viewers have just been reminded about what Kohl’s sells and about the company’s flexible return policy.
Kohl’s has been struggling, posting a 87% drop in profit in the first quarter of 2016. Chief Executive Kevin Mansell earlier this month called the first quarter “challenging” and said the company “took the markdowns necessary to clear excess inventory.” Kohl’s has said it would close 18 underperforming stores this year.
Kohl’s representatives visited Payne’s house to bring her kids their own masks, a virtual truckload of other “Star Wars” swag, $2,500 in Kohl’s gift cards and 10,000 Kohl’s reward points.
That’s small beans in comparison with the free advertising.
Kohl’s earlier this year sponsored the 88th Annual Academy Awards, which brought in 34.3 million views. That’s about a quarter of the views “Chewbacca mom” has garnered. Kohl’s would not say how much it spent on advertising for the Oscars, but we’re guessing it’s a lot more than four times the $2,500 Kohl’s offered Payne.
Hasbro and Disney have reason to be happy, too, as sales of the mask have gone through the roof. The Chewbacca mask, produced by Hasbro HAS, -0.01% , was originally listed for $44.99, but was later put on sale for about $20. After Payne’s video went viral, the mask sold out on the Kohl’s website. It’s also sold out at Target TGT, -0.53% , where it is listed at $29.99.
Hasbro has already emerged victorious from its lineup of “Star Wars”–themed toys. The company saw a 24% increase in sales in its boys segment in its most recent quarter, led primarily by a deep lineup of “Star Wars” toys.
It’s still possible to get your hands on a Chewy mask — if you’re willing to shell out a lot more than just a couple Wupiupis. It is now listed on Amazon.com AMZN, +0.93% by private sellers for about $200 and as a “Buy It Now” on eBay EBAY, +0.35% for between $50 and $1,000.
But in Payne’s view the real win here is something money can’t buy.
“The best part of all of this is being able to share joy with people, hear stories of people coming out of depression,” she said on “Good Morning America” on Monday.
One viewer messaged Payne to tell her about her autistic daughter who hadn’t laughed in two months until she watched the video of Payne laughing. “To see a child laugh that you haven’t seen laugh — those are the stories I’m going to take with me every day.”
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