The Target of Cool

Discussion
Jul 17, 2006
George Anderson

By George Anderson


You won’t find any of these Target branded clothes at the discount retailer’s stores, but the chain is hoping that the buzz around the newly introduced high-end Target Couture clothing line will further stake out its position as a cool place to shop.


Brand Central, the consulting firm that paid Target to license its bull’s-eye logo, is hoping to rollout the line of Tar-zhay merchandise at department and specialty apparel stores across the country. The merchandise got its formal introduction when it went on sale at Intuition, a hip boutique in Los Angeles.


The merchandise in the Target line is decidedly un-Target like. According to a report by The Washington Post, items in the line go from $140 for a pair of jeans to $3,185 for a diamond necklace with the bull’s-eye logo.


Marshal Cohen, a senior analyst with NPD Group, said Target is less concerned about the actual sales of its licensed products than with the reinforcement the upscale line gives to its image as a cool retailer.


“I think they’ll be tickled pink – or in their case, tickled red – if they make money,” Cohen said. “But I don’t think they care about that. What they’re most concerned about is maintaining the integrity of the brand.”


Michael Silverstein, a senior vice president with the Boston Consulting Group, said the new line could ultimately confuse customers.


“People … would say, ‘Well, why is that here?’ They need an explanation,” he said. “And in the world of consumer marketing, explanations cost money.”


Discussion Question: What will the upscale bull’s-eye line do and not do for Target’s image and retail business?

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18 Comments on "The Target of Cool"


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K Holmes
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K Holmes
14 years 7 months ago

So let’s see. The customer who shops for $140 jeans and $250 purses is going into a “chic” “boutique” to buy something with a discounter’s logo on it (and very unappealing visually, if the sample designs shown are any indication) because…?

Oh. You mean, the Target customer is gonna think oh cool, Target sells $140 jeans in some chi-chi joint so I’m gonna go to my local Target to buy $29 jeans?

The only way this could POSSIBLY succeed is if a: the designs are so unique, it won’t MATTER that part of the design HAPPENS to be an almost-subliminal red-and-white-concentric-circle design and b: if it is done tongue-in-chic, a la Target’s original logo-ads. I’m thinkin’ doggie sweaters, maternity tops, dinnerware.

Mark Lilien
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Any positive publicity is free advertising that reinforces the Target brand. There will be no significant sales volume from the Target-licensed products. The “confusion” issue won’t be significant. When it comes to positive publicity, the Target people score again. Isn’t it neat to have a mass merchant whose publicity isn’t based on fighting charges about demeaning its labor force?

Bill Robinson
Guest
Bill Robinson
14 years 7 months ago

Target is taking on some risk with its tony new brand. It might be cool. But is it Target?

The retail graveyard is filled with once high-flyers like Target who were too aggressive in trading up. Putting higher price points on top of value-based assortments might just be another manifestation of good, better, best. The trouble is that cool is not always best.

Tar-zhay will not hit the bulls eye with Target’s core customer. Will they attract enough new customers with the new brand to justify the risk? I doubt it.

Peter Fader
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

It’s nice to see efforts to make the brand a legitimate part of customers’ lives. More retailers (and other businesses) should be so proactive (and lucky) to be able to make something like this happen. Many would be unable to capitalize on the opportunity even if it were presented to them. For instance, if this were the music industry, they would sue consumers who wore these items….

William martin
Guest
William martin
14 years 7 months ago

As an observer and occasional Target shopper, visiting a Target is not cool, the merchandise that mostly looks like what you might find in Wal-Mart/Kmart is not cool. Waiting in the checkout line while some unmotivated employee rings you up is not cool.

Target is not Starbucks; it’s not IKEA. It is great advertising that is way in front of the reality of the Target shopping experience.

Laura Davis-Taylor
Guest
Laura Davis-Taylor
14 years 7 months ago

I agree with Ryan and Kai. This feels like a cure for no disease when Target can be putting time and effort into more pressing brand challenges. Also, part of treating yourself to a high ticket item is the experience of the purchase. If I’m going to drop a lot of money on something, it’s not likely that I’m going to Target to do it. It’s more likely going to be a Tiffany’s, Neiman’s or similar store where they can provide a fully immersive 5 star experience.

But who knows? Target may make a liar out of me…should be fun to watch!

Ryan Mathews
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

So, let’s see…the way to build an upscale image is to create a superbrand that makes the original brand look like a cheap knockoff. Interesting theory. So real Target shoppers are supposed to feel better because they’re buying mass goods that carry the same brand as goods they can’t afford. Call me crazy, but I think this is brand mis-positioning at its worst. Target needs to focus on building its brand image where it earns its money — in the store.

Kai Clarke
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

The Target brand is becoming well-known, but just because you can brand things with the logo, and charge high prices, doesn’t make it cool (or successful). In fact, creating a “cool” product is one of the more difficult things to do in marketing. Endorsement, recognition and the embracement of the brand by other “cool,” recognized pop icons will help, but even this is no guarantee of success. The upscale “bulls-eye” logo will not do anything to increase Target’s mass appeal. Instead, Target should be more concerned with how it can improve customer satisfaction, the customer experience and compete with other retailers in each of the departments in which it sells products. Wal-Mart is still eating Target’s lunch, and we shouldn’t discount Sears/Kmart just yet….

Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
14 years 7 months ago

The strategy of many things Target has done over the years hasn’t always been obvious when they were first implemented. However, Target has done an excellent job of building their brand and customer loyalty over the past 20 years and this reader believes there is a “method behind their madness.” I’m in agreement with some of the other comments that have been made in regards to the effect of these offerings could have on their brand. However, I believe Target’s long term strategy may be to eventually launch a chain of upscale retail specialty stores that will allow them to maintain their current niche in the market, while growing their business by catering to their customer base that is not only aging, but have significantly increased their incomes.

Toni Rahlf
Guest
Toni Rahlf
14 years 7 months ago

“Cool” at its best is a brand that you might want tattooed to your body… or a brand whose logo makes great “bling.” Nike and Harley-Davidson come to mind. It’s thanks to a lot of great marketing work (knowing your consumers’ culture), but also a fair dose of luck, that some brands are “that cool.” Who wants to sport a Target Bullseye because it’s Target? I think Ryan Mathews got it right. As a Tar-zhay shopper and a marketer, this makes me scratch my head.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Way too much is being made of this minor marketing effort one-off. Product will be isolated to one L.A. boutique until further notice; the equivalent of a pop-up store. No way this will negatively affect the brand. Just the latest buzz-generating reminder from Target that they are, and will remain, the master brand (dominant to any that might pass through their stores).

Joseph Peter
Guest
Joseph Peter
14 years 7 months ago

Target should have kept Marshall Field’s…. Chicagoans would still be happy and it would have been a market Target could have tried out new clothing brands with.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
14 years 7 months ago

Let’s see; Target is trying a bold move to help solidify its image as a “fashion” store. Didn’t the first thought piece ask how stores can create a point of differentiation? Trying new ventures to create that point of differentiation might not always be successful but seeing a company make a bold move that could drive home their point of differentiation is always exciting.

Karen McNeely
Guest
14 years 7 months ago
I definitely need to dissent with the majority here. 1) I think the reason this is missing the mark is that the folks in this discussion group is not the target (no pun intended) audience for this marketing strategy. I’d assume they are aiming for the young edgy crowd, and I think it would work. 2) Target is cool. Magazines such as In Style etc, often quote celebs young an old who among their high end cosmetic and fashion items will mention that they buy a layering tee or a low end mascara at Target. I never hear that they hang out at Wal-Mart. 3) All you need is one or two PYTs photographed wearing the upscale Target merchandise and the hip factor among those who care (and there are those who do!) in the twenty something crowd goes up exponentially. 4) Since Wal-Mart has been trying to promote itself for its fashion, I think this is a very clever way to stay one step ahead. 5) If nothing else, it is already working because… Read more »
Don Van Zandt
Guest
Don Van Zandt
14 years 7 months ago

Whaaaaaaat?! Putting a discounter label on an upscale “fashion” line is cool how? I’m seeing huge clearance positions in a lot of trendy lines at Target right now. How are hugely overpriced “fashion forward” clothes that most likely won’t sell going to help sell merchandise at Target?

My wife & kids (teens) certainly like the value/quality/chic piece of the equation for clothes, but are likely to scratch their heads over this one.

Image is important but you are selling MERCHANDISE in a Target store. $250 Bullseye outfits at Neiman’s are not cool and won’t influence the teens purchases at Target. Don’t take my word for it, go ask some of them…. Sure experiment, but the brand is what makes Target, not be Sears/Kmart, and not be Wal-Mart. Are you sure you want to tinker with it this way?

Karin Miller
Guest
Karin Miller
14 years 7 months ago

Many of the commentators seem to believe that this merchandise is being sold in Target stores. It is not. The idea is that the Couture line is being sold through high-end specialty and department stores and Target will receive royalties through their licensing agreement.

I think it is safe to say that the “target customer” is not the “Target Customer.”

I agree with those that see this deal as a “win” for Target. I doubt that the royalties will add up to more than a rounding error, but the PR could potentially be priceless!

Tom McGoldrick
Guest
Tom McGoldrick
14 years 7 months ago

I don’t understand why someone would want to purchase upscale products with a Target brand or why Target shoppers would feel good about not having access to the good stuff.

This move makes no sense to me.

John Kill
Guest
John Kill
14 years 7 months ago

Current fashion trends are such that anything that “looks” disheveled or distressed, but is actually new, is in. Young hipsters are paying big money for t-shirts with tacky logos from the 70s, jeans that are torn to shreds right of the rack, and “dress” shirts that are deliberately rumpled as if they were slept in. If a $50.00 mesh “trucker” ball cap with the John Deere logo on it can be a fashion statement, so can frayed jeans with a bulls-eye on the rear. It only takes one Lindsey or Paris or Ashton to be caught wearing them by paparazzi and it instantly gets “street cred.”

This should help Target solidify it’s position well above Wal-Mart in the “hip” category.

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