Target, the retailer that perfected both the art and the science of retail branding, is bringing it to a new level of creativity and excellence.

David Pinto, Target, marketing executive vice presidents, John Pellegrin, Michael Francis, Jeff Jones, Gap, Coca-Cola Co., Leo Barnett advertising agency, McKinney, Target + Neiman Marcus, Missoni, Bullseye View

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Inside This Issue - News

A new era in marketing dawns at Target

January 14th, 2013
by David Pinto

MINNEAPOLIS – Target, the retailer that perfected both the art and the science of retail branding, is bringing it to a new level of creativity and excellence.

As background, in the company’s 50-year history Target has employed just three marketing executive vice presidents. The first, John Pellegrin, who conceived and built the Target brand, introduced the concept of creative, outside-the-box branding to Target — and, in a larger sense, to the mass retailing ­community.

Pellegrin was followed by Michael Francis, who became a legend at Target while pushing the concept and effectiveness of retail branding to levels never before reached in mass retailing.

Now comes Jeff Jones, who is pushing brand building at Target further along the path of innovation, creativity and unconventional thinking. Jones, 45, was named Target’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer early in 2012, joining the retailer with a marketing resume that included stints at specialty retailer Gap, Coca-Cola Co., the Leo Barnett advertising agency and, most recently, as partner and president at McKinney, a Durham, N.C.-based advertising agency.

Target marks not only the culmination of Jones’ diverse and uniquely productive marketing career but the assignment he has always coveted — to the extent he was willing to bring to a close a successful business partnership and move to Minneapolis to get it.
Though an admirer of both Pellegrin and Francis, Jones will bring his own ideas to Target. "The advantage I have in this job," he said recently on a trip to New York, "is that Target is not a troubled brand that needs fixing, but rather a brand that has never been more successful. That’s attributable both to the two talented individuals who preceded me here and to what their contributions say about the company’s commitment to its brand."

Still, leaving McKinney for Target was not an easy decision for Jones. "In the end," he says, "I was convinced by two factors: the impressive reputation of the Target brand and the fact that the company has a history of brand execution."

Perhaps another factor was Jones’ realization that branding in the modern age is changing, primarily by becoming more a product of the digital age. "The younger the audience," he insists, "the more of an expectation you have of how transparent a branded campaign must be to reach and influence it," citing as proof the growing importance of such social tools as Facebook and Twitter to a brand’s engagement strategy.

Jones stresses that marketing is not simply paid advertising, but a strategic combination of paid, owned, earned and shared messages. "Measuring a marketing campaign by the number of impressions it creates is old world," he says. "Today, a marketing program must be measured by its ability to create a different — and more memorable — experience."

Though new to the job, Jones has already made an impression at Target, largely through his focus on modernizing the company’s marketing approach. This is evident in his emphasis on creating compelling content and enhancing Target’s multichannel marketing initiatives. In the last six months alone Target has debuted an array of experiences to drive consumer engagement — from the short film Falling for You, a first-of-its-kind, uninterrupted shoppable video, to the unique use of QR codes and text-to-buy technology to help time-starved guests quickly purchase gifts from their smartphones. The retailer also moved into the realm of designed media by integrating the much-buzzed-about Target + Neiman Marcus collection into distinctive TV content during an episode of ABC’s "Revenge." The secondary subplot, written in partnership with the show’s creative team, was widely shared in real time across social channels and helped fuel a level of anticipation for the collection that eclipsed the 2011 Missoni launch.

Jones sees Target’s multichannel approach as a critical way to connect with its guests, from how they want to hear from the retailer to how they want to shop. Merging technology with the in-store experience combines the ease of online shopping with everything customers love about a Target store. Jones also believes in the importance of communicating with consumers through content-rich engagement. One way the retailer does this is with its online news magazine, A Bullseye View, which provides a behind-the-scenes glimpse into key brand moments, partnerships and events.

In short, this is indeed the dawn of an exciting new marketing age at Target, one that, in the words of the retailer’s new executive vice president and chief marketing officer, promises a different, and more exciting experience for millions of Target’s guests — and a new challenge for those retailers who choose to compete with mass retailing’s most productive and innovative marketing machine.