At Target Corporation, where 2019 comparable sales growth at 1,800+ stores was 3.4% and digital sales growth was 29%, the competition never seems far away.
Buffeted by Amazon and Walmart, Target has created and stuck to a distinctive and profitably positioned lane. Sprucing up stores, expanding house brands and digital capabilities has proven to be a sound strategic trifecta.
I recently asked Rick Gomez, Target’s EVP, chief marketing, digital and strategy officer, for his perspective on the organization’s marketing strategy.
Paul Talbot: How do you evaluate the usefulness and the effectiveness of your marketing strategy?
Rick Gomez: Marketing is responsible for driving business results, so we measure everything we do and can adjust accordingly in real time.
But we have to balance the math and the magic. Because when Target’s at its best, we’re sparking something deeper in our guests. That means we have to compel people to make us part of their everyday shopping – like grabbing something for dinner on Tuesday. But we also have to inspire a sense of joy and discovery in a way only Target can so we can drive those special “I got it at Target!” trips.
A great example of this balance is our Target Run campaign and the work we did last year to celebrate the 20th anniversary of our first design partnership.
Target Run is easily the most effective campaign we’ve ever done – by almost every metric. It has produced phenomenal return on investment since we launched it a few years ago. Today it’s playing a big role in driving awareness of our same-day fulfillment options – drive-up, in-store pick-up and same-day delivery with Shipt.
But our design partnership work was just as important because it reminded our guests of one of the things they truly love about us – our ability to make great design accessible to all.
Of course, we want guests to love the products we create and be inspired to make a purchase, but what made this really powerful is that it was a celebration of what makes us special in the eyes of our guests.
Talbot: In a retail environment that shifts and reshapes itself at a dizzying pace, how do you keep marketing strategy relevant without losing sight of core objectives?
Gomez: Marketing has a seat at the table in everything we do. Target Run, which I mentioned, is a great example of the role we play in driving the business. When we created this campaign, it was all about supporting our food, beverage and essentials categories. Today, it’s helping us drive further adoption of the same-day fulfillment services our guests love.
We’re also constantly looking at how we’re showing up in the world – with a strong focus on inclusivity. Because the road to growth is one of bringing people in and making everyone feel like they belong when they’re shopping at Target.
More than three-quarters of Americans live within a short drive of a Target store. We’re accessible to everyone through our app and website. That means the days of a singular view of the Target guest are over.
We serve people from every walk of life, so for marketing to provide value to our business, we have to consider all of our guests.
Talbot: What role do your house brands, either individually or in aggregate, play in terms of positioning Target?
Gomez: Guests love Target for our curated assortment of owned and national brands. Both play a big role in our success.
That said, our owned brands are an amazing differentiator for Target. In every area of our business – particularly apparel, accessories, home, electronics and food and beverage – our owned brands give our guests access to great products at great prices that they can only find at Target.
Over the last few years, we’ve rolled out more than 30 new owned brands as part of a broader strategy to reimagine the Target experience. And our guests’ response shows that they love what they’re seeing.
Talbot: Any other observations you would care to share on marketing strategy?
Gomez: I’d go back to the importance of inclusivity. This is something I can’t stress enough.
That’s why I’d encourage every brand to think about the stories they’re telling through their marketing. Really look hard at how you’re showing up and the messages you’re sending. And then ask, “Who am I missing? Who else can I invite in?”
I think there’s a tremendous opportunity out there for brands that can find those universal truths that are relevant to their business and use those to not only bring people in, but to bring people together.
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