"Kirby Balls" has taken the world by storm, but Target is no stranger to unique video game promotions.
"Kirby balls, at your local Target store. But you can't buy them, they're not for sale!"
When I wrote that parody jingle, I had no idea how much of a viral sensation it would become. People now recognize me in public as the "Kirby Balls Guy" and my life has been forever entwined with the adorable little pink puffball. That's a fate I can live with - after all, he's always been my main in Smash since the Nintendo 64 days!
However, this creative transformation isn't the first time that Target has transformed their famous red bollards into familiar video game characters and objects, and at the risk of undermining the catchiest jingle I've ever written, it may not even be the best promo they've done. Here are a few other Target promotions that caught my eye over the years:
Pokémon Go (2016)
Ah yes, the summer of 2016. The concept of an AR game was as novel as could be, and the world wanted nothing more than to go outside and catch a Pidgey or twenty. I was certainly right alongside them, firmly planted by the beach in Ocean City, MD until I had enough Magikarp candy to bring home my very own Gyarados.
When businesses discovered during the Pokémon Go craze that "points of interest" near them were PokéStops and gyms, some tried promotional stunts to capitalize, and Target was no exception. In August of 2016, many locations had their bollards painted to resemble the iconic Pokéball, and the internet certainly took notice. Since the game is strictly a free-to-play mobile title, they had nothing inside to sell other than the usual Pokémon merch, so this promotion didn't extend much further than the bollards themselves; however, it certainly was fun watching countless businesses acknowledge the trend!
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (2017)
The Nintendo Switch re-release of the megahit racing game Mario Kart 8 is hands down the best video game promotion Target has done. Honestly, it isn't even close.
First, we start with the Mario and Luigi bollards pictured above, the predecessors to the now legendary Kirby balls. These brothers balled so Kirby could ball - remember that. But the fun didn't stop there, with arguably some of the coolest ideas that have ever come out of a corporate retail store boardroom - Mario CARTS.
Target's carts were given a fresh set of decals, making them look like the iconic Mario Kart vehicles we know and love (and making me want to get in them, be pushed around making racecar noises, and throw banana peels at oncoming shoppers). Mario Kart 8 is the top-selling racing game of all time with almost 50 million units sold, so this is something even the most casual of gamers - or parents of gamers - will recognize and appreciate.
But the fun doesn't stop there, shoppers. Presenting the coolest part of the coolest video game Target promotion ever: THE ENTRANCE.
Target's sliding door entrances had these "starting line" inspired decals, with Lakitu ready to count you down onto the awaiting retail racetrack. They could've stopped there, and this would've still been the greatest Target video game promo ever, but they didn't - because they had motion sensors.
When the doors opened, the iconic countdown sound of "beeep beeep beeep BEEEEEEEEP!" played, flashing lights created sensory overload that could only result in flooring your cart into the seasonal display, and all of this was followed by Mario Kart music blasting. Imagine walking into your Target to get some milk and getting hit with a promotion like this. Seriously, you're probably walking out with Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, and maybe some bananas. You probably forgot the milk.
This is just a small sample of some of the cool video game promotions Target has done, but one thing is for sure: make sure to check in with Dale afterwards - he will give you a sweet deal!
Want to hear us talk more about Kirby balls at your local Target store? Check out this episode of the QTB Podcast below, and make sure to follow us on TikTok!
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