September 7, 2008

Target and Advocacy

Filed under: Marketing Philosophy, Meeting Marketers, School — Robert John Ed @ 8:33 pm

A couple merchandising managers came in to speak to our marketing class the other day.  They were very knowledgeable and it was great to hear about what they do and how it affects the company from their perspective.  Companies such as Target, Lowe’s, Walmart, Best Buy, Home Depot, Walgreen’s contribute a ridiculous amount to our economy and those contributions aren’t going away.  For all the philibustering I do about the tubes and their changing the landscape, it’s going to take some time.  I’m an extremely tech influenced marketing type who doesn’t shy away from using the new mediums to purchase things.  I’m an anomoly; well that’s a bit drastic, but I’m certainly not the norm.  It will take quite a bit of time before the informational generation comes into their prime and profits for more traditional brick and mortars to fall.

As citation, the merchandisers talked very little about what Target is doing online.  I know that those two aspects of Target (the physical stores and the website) are completely separated and so these two speakers have no or little connection to the latter, but I was still expecting a bit more dialogue on their web strategies.  Target does need to begin to question itself in terms of what it is really offering the end users, I think that they aren’t necessarily focusing on the web for the simple reason that their experience is such a tangible thing in stores.  But a day will come when Amazon and other E-tailers have captured a great amount of revenue that used to be brick and mortar based.  It’s happening today, albeit slowly.  Target will eventually have to think in terms of offering that incredible brand experience online as well as it does in stores.  Even to me, that sounds incredibly difficult, but it has to be looked at today and invested in for the future.

One thing that Target does incredibly well is that brand experience.  I’ve shopped their about five times in the last week trying to round up everything for the new pad, and they truly are amazing.  Quick example, they have new carts!  Those carts are great; comfortable, stylish and serve extra utility.  They have perimeter locks in them for the store, but they have plastic barring on the tops which make it easier to pull the cart from any situation.  Sounds small, but all the small things add up to one great big happy emporium.  The brand experience is reflected by the terminology they use for customers.  They speak to their customers as “guests.”  It’s a very powerful thing, semantics.  The connotations associated with the lingo we use as marketers inherently alters how we feel about the subject matter.  Referring to a customer as a guest implies that they are more human and are close friends; treating them as such becomes much easier.  On the other hand, companies that label consumers as statistics or market share points can have a very sterile, mechanical treatment of those persons.  It’s dehumanizing to market to people as such.  Treating people as people goes a long way.

Anyway, I asked the merchandising managers about when they began to address their consumers as such.  They didn’t know.  This is a good thing. Target had began referring to consumers as guests before the most senior of the representatives, which was over 14 years!  I know this sounds like a small point, au contraire,  it is everything.  They had learned that some time ago.

Well done.


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