This exceptional brand awareness is a direct result of their consistent communication. While most chief marketers continue to cite Integrated Marketing Communication as their biggest challenge, according to the Association of National Advertisers, Target masters it.
Their effective communication begins with a clear brand strategy. Per their annual report, “Our mission is to make Target the preferred shopping destination for our guests by delivering outstanding value, continuous innovation and an exceptional guest experience by consistently fulfilling our Expect More. Pay Less.® brand promise.” Exemplary brands always begin with strategy. Brand communication is merely a way to articulate and reinforce the strategy.
Target’s marketing communications are exceptionally cohesive and consistent. Here’s how they get cohesion: The brand’s ‘get more for less’ promise and unmistakable red and white brand imagery is seen in all aspects of their advertising, product mix, and in-store communication. Rarely, if ever, do they fall prey to the common mistake of doing a marketing campaign that does not have a strong relationship to all of their other marketing activities. Target is armed with a clear understanding of exactly what the brand is and they ensure that every element of their marketing communication reinforces that brand image. Most companies lack that clear vision, making consistency difficult, if not impossible. Target also has a very senior brand owner (a centralized brand management organization, led by a senior executive) that ensures all aspects of brand communication is on strategy and consistent. This is in stark contrast to struggling companies that treat branding as a tactical, ‘window-dressing’ function.
To achieve consistency, they have had the same basic strategy and communication since they began in 1962. There have been many upgrades and refinements of the strategy and communication, but basically the same message. The beauty of this disciplined persistence, is that they can reap the benefits of these investments in brand equity. Contrast this with too many companies’ knee-jerk reaction to do 180 degree changes virtually yearly, with disappointing results.
Most importantly, they are always tracking and refining their marketing programs to drive results. Their marketing effectiveness is engineered, not done through trial and error. They do extensive research to test and refine all aspects of their brand experience in a simulated shopping experience, they ‘micromanage, think and sweat about every little aspect of the guest experience’ and ‘take the time to communicate to our broad organization what they do, why they’re doing it, how it fits the whole,’ according to CEO Gregg Steinhafel in a recent Forbes interview. And their attention to key return-on-investment metrics are legendary.
Despite their overwhelming size, Target has useful lessons for every brand.
1. Determine your brand strategy first. Don’t bother to spend a $ or hour in marketing until that’s clear.
2. Make all aspects of your marketing communications cohesive and consistent. Leverage what you have already spent, and stretch what you plan to invest.
3. Track and refine all your programs. If you are not prepared to measure programs’ return-on-investment, you are not ready to do it.