At Sears, a Marketing Lesson Is Forged in Heavy Metal

In our third installment of Marketing Masters, we had the pleasure of speaking with Eddie Combs, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of Appliances at Sears. In his position, Combs directs brand messaging for the nation’s largest appliance retailer.

At first glance, Combs might seem to be an unlikely marketer, but he first learned the finer arts of persuasion over 20 years ago when he led a heavy metal band called Krome. It was there that he first learned how to put forth a powerful message and extend a relationship with an audience.

“My life as a marketer has gone from metal to metal,” says Combs. Playing music “I learned about mailing lists and advertising and how to get crowds in. Later in my career, I’m still marketing metal, but now I’m marketing the metal of appliances. And I’m still doing a lot of the same things ironically.”

At over 120 years old, Sears may very well have the richest history of any retail brand. From it’s beginnings in the late 19th century as a mail order seller to its creation of iconic American brands like Craftsman and Kenmore, Sears has always been at the forefront of the American story.

In recent years , the company’s home products business has taken off in no small part due to its breakthrough “Wake Up Call” campaign which brings humor and sass to appliance shopping. In the commercials a “truth teller” calls confused couples in the midst of making decisions about home appliances. The truth teller quickly schools would be shoppers and by the end, the message is clear: Sears offers something that warehouse stores simply cannot.

“The Wake Up Call campaign is about catching people in the moment of truth when they’re going to make a decision and where they’re going to make a purchase,” says Eddie Combs. “You’ll be seeing a lot of different flavors of it coming out in the near future and you might even see some blue phones ringing around your town.”

Of course, at its simplest, good marketing is about seizing this moment and connection. Among his many tactics, Eddie is a true believer in radio and its ability to communicate with diverse audiences.

The connected, human voice of radio coincides perfectly with Sears’ social networking strategy. Sharing links to Sears’ catchy ads generates viral buzz and creates staying power for campaigns. In this case, CBS Radio has partnered with Eddie Combs and Sears to help amplify the Wake Up Call, inspiring consumers to reconsider their decision to shop anywhere else.


Eddie Combs currently is the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Sears Home Appliance Business Unit (Sears and Kmart Formats) and previously held the same position for Home Electronics Business Unit in 2009.

Sears Holdings was created in connection with the merger of Kmart Holding Corporation and Sears, Roebuck and Co., which was completed on March 24, 2005. The company generates approximately $55 billion in annual revenues and includes approximately 3,800 full-line and specialty stores, as well as related service businesses in the United States and Canada.

Combs joined Sears in October of 2006, leading marketing strategy and customer value proposition activities for several business units, including home appliances. Prior to joining Sears, Combs spent 19 years with Motorola, a $24 billion telecom provider located in Schaumburg, Illinois, where he held various global marketing positions and internal consulting assignments.

Combs blog can be found at and on twitter @MarketingGr8nes

Combs holds an MBA from the The Lake Forest Graduate School in Lake Forest Illinois.