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[25 comments]

Target on the 'Up & Up' with Private Label

May 20, 2009

Commentary by George Anderson

Target believes it is really onto something with its new package redesign for some of its private label items in health and personal care. The retailer has ditched its well-known bull's-eye and replaced it with a color arrow on a white background that says "up & up" (the brand's name) on packaging.

"We believe that it will stand out on the shelf, and it is so distinctive that we'll get new guests that will want to try it that maybe didn't even notice the Target brand before," Kathee Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising for Target, told Reuters.

Ms. Tesija said the new look and brand name has been in the works for about a year-and-a-half. Items began rolling out in March and now number about 730. The chain will have renamed private label items available across 40 product categories by the fall.

While Target does so much that is right when it comes to branding and, undoubtedly, did quite a bit of testing before taking the big step of retiring the bull's-eye logo for this new brand, we simply do not get it. Perhaps as a longtime Target shopper, we do not get it because we are not the aforementioned "new guest" they are looking to grab.

When we first encountered the arrow on a Target store shelf while looking for baby wipes several weeks back we mistook the arrow symbol for a backward-facing K (the package was turned upside down). Why on earth, we wondered, would Target want to move away from one of the most recognizable logos in U.S. retailing with plenty of brand equity behind it for something completely different? As we said before, we just don't get it.

Discussion Questions: What do you see as the pros and cons of Target moving away from the bull's-eye logo to the new arrow design on its up & up brand? Does the chain need to do anything to communicate with its customers who are "thrown" by the new look?

FINANCIALS:     [NYSE:TGT]

Discussion Questions:

While we value unfettered opinion, we urge you to show respect and courtesy for people or companies about whom you comment. Keep in mind that this is a public, professional business discussion. RetailWire reserves the right to edit or refuse the publication of remarks that we deem unsuitable. We may also correct for unintended spelling and grammatical errors.

Instant Poll:

On balance, do you see a new private label packaging design that replaces the Target bull's-eye as a positive or negative for the retailer?

Comments:

Ms. Tesija's logic is backward: "We believe that it will stand out on the shelf, and it is so distinctive that we'll get new guests that will want to try it that maybe didn't even notice the Target brand before." New guests (or customers, as the rest of us call them) are unlikely to walk into a Target store for the first time in order to buy a private label they never saw before. More important, one of the key ingredients in Target's brand equity is the red bullseye logo. Almost every other company in America (retailers and others) would kill to have a logo this recognizable and powerful. Target is certainly within its rights to rethink its private labels, and many other private-brand categories in the store do not exploit the bullseye. But did they have to come up with something so bland and unmemorable?

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Dick Seesel, Principal, Retailing In Focus LLC

I agree with Richard, this does not make sense. Target has spent hundreds of millions of dollars embedding the red and white bullseye logo into consumer consciousness. Why would they want to change to a logo that has nothing to do with the company name or colors and has no meaning to new or current shoppers?

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Max Goldberg, President, Max Goldberg & Associates

George makes the assumption that Target has researched this and received positive results. I wouldn't be so sure. And when was the last time we heard someone switching from Kroger to Publix or Jewel to Dominick's or Ralphs to Safeway because of their private label products?

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Dr. Stephen Needel, Managing Partner, Advanced Simulations

Nothing wrong with having more than one logo on different levels of product. but why not continue to simply develop Archer Farms which is starting to get some consumer recognition? Just looking at the design of the new logo, it seems to have a "generic" feel to it. I don't find it particularly pleasing from a purely aesthetic point of view.

Len Lewis, President, Lewis Communications, Inc.

I agree with the previous comments about the importance and desirability of a logo that brings about instant recognition and reinforces brand equity. It's hard to understand why Target would want to dismiss that on-sight connection. I'm curious to know the testing that was done to demonstrate the upside value of the new package design and logo. Furthermore, testing should be able gauge any downside risk.

Here are package design criteria I would have recommended to include in the marketing research: shelf impact, variety and benefit differentiation, label readability/identification of content, imagery (e.g. quality product, good value for the money) conveyed, stimulation of purchase interest and finally, overall attractiveness.

To use these criteria for change as important as Target is undergoing the research would have to be quantitative with measures that are direct, not inferences about the packaging dynamics. Perhaps Target did this kind of research, although the change with no link to their well-established iconic branding makes it hard to believe.

If Target could demonstrate an upside in the design for attracting new buyers for their private label without alienating (or being overlooked by) their current franchise, that could have been a reason to move ahead.

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Joan Treistman, President, The Treistman Group LLC

I am a Graphic Designer by trade and just looking at the example shown, I think it's a nice design, in a retro mid 70s sort of way but I don't associate it with Target. I would assume that it's a new brand that Target sells. I am sure there will be a big rollout campaign explaining Up & Up and if the products are good and live up to the hype and are priced well, I don't see a problem.

I like their Origin line of health supplements, nice packaging and it's American made. I don't recall the Bull's Eye on that many products other than paper towels and trash bags. If I was Design Director I would have eliminated the word Target and just leave the bull's eye--it's that strong.

'jameseastbay'

I've been yapping about private label over the last few months and I'm all about divergence from the norm. I wholeheartedly applaud Target's move. The bulls eye is great, but if they really want to penetrate, they will create new brands within their PL category.

People want value but they will not sacrifice quality at this point in time. The stigma of the 'house brand' is still apparent so it is wise to create new labels.

Take a cue from Loblaws. They have different tiers of value and quality within their house brand program. I'm looking forward to seeing the layouts and merchandising for the new lines.

Doron Levy, President, TheMortgageMachine.ca

I think it's a great move and to me it signals that Target is striving to create private labels that stand on their own and that might be mistaken for boutique brands or exclusives given to Target. Target has acknowledged that "guest perception does not reflect reality" when it comes to its value proposition. It stands to follow then, that Target may not wring out as much margin from items with a big, fat target on them, at least until that perception is cleared up.

Their premium private label in food, Archer Farms, doesn't sport a Target. I don't understand the controversy.

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Carol Spieckerman, President, newmarketbuilders

Target tries a lot of new things to stay relevant to the shoppers, but this logo design is odd to me. It's really generic and doesn't feel at all upscale. But, I defer to the shoppers and will be interested to watch what they do with it from a marketing POV. They need to create meaning for the brand name, so let's give them a shot at that and see how consumers respond. They're a smart retailer and I have to think they are doing some sort of listening to the shoppers.

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Anne Howe, Senior Vice President, Shopper Solutions, part of Acosta Mosaic Group

Wal-Mart is probably having a good laugh at their corporate headquarters.

David Livingston, Principal, DJL Research

Perhaps this is a nod to the "downwardly less affluent" not wanting the world to see they shop at Target. Just a hunch but I doubt Target is as stupid as some of these commentators think.

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Bob Phibbs, President/CEO, The Retail Doctor

Adding another distinct PL line--maybe. But not using some version of a target in the new logo is crazy. TARGET is the name of the company after all. If they wanted to change something, perhaps getting rid of the "guest" thing, which many of us seem to detest would have been a good start.

'Liatt'

I don't think there is an obvious answer. Target does have the problem that the bulls eye, while visibly striking and iconic outside of their store, is so ubiquitous within the store that it does blend in. Meanwhile, Archer Farms is a food brand that doesn't logically extend to H&B. So the idea of developing another brand sounds reasonable to me.

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Jonathan Marek, Senior Vice President, Applied Predictive Technologies

I do not find the graphic compelling but I am not the target shopper. However, if this is going to be a quality private brand it must disassociate from the retailer's logo. Retailer branded products carry the connotation of the lowest level of quality. If the new trend is to compete at the quality level with CPG branded products the line must meaningfully stand on its own.

I am surprised at my colleagues who in these discussions have praised the moves of retailers to develop quality private brands, none of which carry the retailer's moniker. How could they not be supporting this move by Target? Using the Target logo on this line would be a colossal blunder. Not only would it denigrate the quality of the product, but it would denigrate the meaning of the Target brand itself. The Target brand carries a great value but it has nothing to do with nutritious baby formula or personal care products.

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Gene Detroyer, Professor, Independent

I hear Walmart cheering. No one will identify the new logo with Target. If Target is trying to get in store consumers to purchase a new brand, it might work. If Target is trying to get current consumers who are in the store and havve some affinity for Target to buy Target products, this is a mistake. At the very least the arrow should be Rex on a white background to affiliate it with Target. Big mistake in my opinion.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

I hear Walmart cheering. No one will identify the new logo with Target. If Target is trying to get in-store consumers to purchase a new brand, it might work. If Target is trying to get current consumers who are in the store and Have some affinity for Target to buy Target products, this is a mistake. At the very least, the arrow should be Rex on a white background to affiliate it with Target. Big mistake in my opinion.

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Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D., President, Global Collaborations, Inc.

Good to see contrary opinions to our negative reaction. That said, it's hard to argue that Trader Joe's, Trader Jose's, Trader Darwin, etc. on that chain's various store brands brings down the image of its private label products. From our perspective, the bull's-eye has a well-established reputation for quality. Moving away from from a known positive image to a new and unknown logo still has us confused.

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George Anderson, Editor-in-Chief/Associate Publisher, RetailWire LLC

Boy, this is right up there with that great move by Tropicana! Clearly one of the most recognized brand marks in the world, so simple, so beautiful, it says what it is and it's...out the door? One of the dumbest things I've seen all year. I think it's a hoax...an Onion article. They couldn't be serious.

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Lee Peterson, EVP Creative Services, WD Partners

My colleagues are correct. However, there is even a more basic approach to this that most are forgetting: Private label is all about appearing to be similar to the national brand at a much lower price. Getting all of the product benefits without paying for the national brand is what private labeling is all about. It is not necessary to stand out when the product is placed next to the national brand and looks like the national brand, has the perceived value of the national brand, yet costs much less.

Private label brands are not destination products, but are instead impulse purchases when customers are considering a national brand. Target is wasting their monies and product positioning when they continually re-invent a private brand. Stick to the basics and they will continue to see success and the increased profits that private labels bring.

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Kai Clarke, President, Kowa Optimed, Inc.

There's the premium Archer Farms brand and the national brand equivalent Market Pantry on the food side. Being a weekly Super Target shopper, the Bullseye logo is a pretty faint recollection for store owned brands in my mind. Target is known to be thorough and deliberate in their execution so the year and a half that they've spent developing this strategy should ease any concerns. I know blue has strong connotations in marketing and maybe the Target brand felt too generic. The difference in pricing and education through their extensive distribution of their weekly ad will educate guests to the proprietary nature of the products. Produce has long been a want of Target guests at all locations so adding perishables such as bananas and lettuce will enhance and delight guests. Target has long been known as a discount retailer and the urban legend that they are perceived as being higher than Wal-Mart will be dispelled through their Unbeatable Prices campaign.

I'm very excited with the organic food signage in their produce section that is in their latest iteration of Super Target. Target has a long history of exceeding expectations and being successful in the face of Walmart so those who detract from Target's decision making lose credibility, in my opinion.

'CompSales'

The great thing about PL is that it usually takes eons to build a "following" for the simple reason PL isn't advertised. Product benefits and attributes have to be learned by trial. From that point of view Target doesn't have much to lose.

By the same token they don't have much to gain either. Facts are that they can only sell to their shoppers. One mistake that many have made in PL is to reduce alternative products (national brands). Target has already done this and, in fact I will no longer even go in their grocery section because the PL push is so strong (pushed me out of the store).

The only positive thing that will come out of a revamp of PL packaging is that they might hire a few more people.

Ed Dennis, president, Dennis Enterprises

As a father who shops at Target often and buys plenty of baby supplies, the new logo makes sense to me. When you walk down the child supplies aisle, you get bombarded by colors from every angle. This new "less is more" design does stand out on the shelf and is easy to differentiate from the other brands surrounding it. To me it looks more like an IKEA designed logo than a generic logo. Plus, it takes the Target name out of the picture which always has meant generic to me and had some of the worst private label packaging around.

Target in my opinion has some of the highest quality private label products on the market, but maybe the Target logo on the box kept some customers from trying them out. This could be a winner for Target.

'blakeelgren'

Looks like they're trying the plain white look, which so many companies like Apple, Philips and countless others have done in the past 5 years. White packaging stood out when iPods came around, but on shelf it's not so distinctive anymore. The art doesn't look that great to me. But at least the font colours are blue. Think how much worse it would be if it was black lettering.

'CPGman'

I hope it works for them.

William Passodelis, associate, ML Co.

The big change in the logo is the use of words. "Up & Up" suggests a whole lot more than the bulls-eye image and the timing for this message couldn't be better. I am Canadian, but I imagine there are a lot of Americans shopping Target for their designer brands that can no longer afford them.

The new look aside, the message is clear. You can buy PL and don't have to be embarrassed. Target does have quality PL products and I am sure they are more profitable than their designer brands. What a great way to keep their primary customer base happy and make more money in the process.

'Designknowsmore'

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