MINNEAPOLIS — Jeff Jones, chief marketing officer at Target Corp., is MMR’s Marketer of the Year for 2015. Jones was recruited in 2012 to help steer the transition from the big-box mentality that distinguished Target’s first half-century toward a position of prominence in a consumer-centric era dominated by digitized data, information technology and social media.
Jones, an ad agency veteran and former chief marketing officer at Gap Inc., is just the third chief marketer at Target, and the first who didn’t rise from within. Jones’ hiring in some respects presaged the arrival in 2014 of Brian Cornell, another outsider hired to lead the charge into omnichannel retailing.
“Marketing, as a profession, is evolving radically, in sync with the changing consumer landscape and the role of technology,” Jones says. “On any given day, I am serving as a thought partner to my colleagues on enterprise strategy, culture, innovation, operations and digital, in addition to leading my team on topics ranging from loyalty to in-store marketing to social media and advertising. In everything I do, my first goal is to serve as the voice of our guest, ensuring that our plans and the decisions we make across Target are in the best interest of those we serve.”
Marketing plays three key roles in Target’s strategy, Jones says. “First, we help shape Target’s strategic direction through the eyes of our guest. Second, we partner with other key business leaders to develop plans to grow their businesses. And finally, we execute marketing communications plans that drive traffic to one of our assets, deepen guest engagement and strengthen the love our guests have for Target.”
The role of the chief marketer continues to change and grow more complicated. It’s no longer sufficient to develop great ads and figure out how to allocate the company’s advertising dollars, although those skills remain vital.
“Great Target campaigns today are a beautiful blend of math and magic,” Jones says. “We strive to strike a cultural chord, strengthen Target’s differentiation in the marketplace and compel consumers to shop with us any way they want. At the same time, we need to be more personalized and individually relevant than ever before. Meeting both objectives is a tall order, but my team likes to set a high bar. This year alone there have been many programs that check all the boxes — the surprise moment when the Imagine Dragons staged a live commercial during the Grammy’s; #TargetStyle; our partnership with Lilly Pulitzer; Back-to-School; Back-to-College; #TargetPride; #SinTraduccion; and Halloween are just a few.”
The “center of the bull’s-eye” for Target’s audience is a millennial, Hispanic family, Jones says. “Virtually all of our plans are focused on delivering relevant and compelling products, experiences and communications to this incredibly important guest.”
About 70% of Latinos in the United States are under the age of 40, meaning they have long lives as consumers ahead of them, and their buying power will grow. Latinos have accounted for more than 60% of U.S. population growth since 2000, but their purchasing power has expanded at more than three times that pace.
These trends play to Target’s strengths, says Jones, who has noted that Hispanic Millennials are more likely than the average Target shopper to identify Target as their favorite retail brand.
Target this year launched a campaign to celebrate uniquely Hispanic moments. Called “Sin Traducción,” or “without translation,” the campaign highlights Spanish terms and moments that have no direct English translation. For example, the first of two spots was named “Arrullo,” meaning “lullaby,” which often describes the right ambience and setting to put a baby to sleep. The second, “Sobremesa,” is about the time right after dinner when family and friends linger at the table to catch up or spend quality time together. The campaign was launched in March in Spanish on the hit comedy “Jane the Virgin” on the CW Television network.
Meanwhile, Target is connecting to shoppers via mobile apps that make it easier to find and buy the company’s merchandise. Target says its Cartwheel app that lets customers select from dozens of deals that can be redeemed at the checkout lane has been a big hit since it was launched in 2013.
“Over the last few years we have gained a much deeper understanding of the guests we are serving, the core equities that define Target and marketing’s role in driving growth,” Jones says.
“The greatest shifts in our approach can be seen in how we are modernizing our capabilities to connect digitally via products like Cartwheel or across the myriad social and digital platforms that exist today,” he adds. “The goal is to enable guests to shop Target any way, anytime they want. Given the line between shopping and living is more and more blurred for our guests, it’s important that we continue to refine and expand our approach to mobile. You’ll see us continue to enhance products like Cartwheel; services such as Registry and Subscriptions; and fulfillment options such as in-store order pickup, Instacart and curbside pickup.”
Jones credits the diverse array of experiences and personal relationships with helping him meet the challenges of leading the retailer’s marketing effort.
“I have been fortunate to learn from some amazing people and help shape brands across more than a dozen different industries in my career,” he says. “In fact, I think it is the diversity of industries, brands and experiences that has most influenced how I approach my current role at Target. From Fortune 100 to start-ups, I am able to draw upon very diverse experiences in my background, which helps me see opportunities from different perspectives. Without question, the greatest highlight of my career so far is seeing so many current and former colleagues thriving professionally. I’ve learned a tremendous amount from them and only hope they value the times we had together as well.”