RETAILERS PUT EXTRA POLISH ON THEIR BRAND IMAGE. RETAIL: TV ADS MORE IMPORTANT THAN EVER FOR TARGET STORES

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The power play in retailing, long thought to reside with the merchandisers, is moving into the marketing department where the brand concept is pushed and nurtured.

"Consumers don't have as much time in malls" as they did in the 1980s and early 1990s, says Dorothy Lakner, an analyst with CIB Oppenheimer. "And advertising reminds consumers you're there."

STAYING TRUE TO BRANDS

John Pellegrene, exec VP-marketing at Target Stores, is positioning his company for the shift.

"Those companies true to their brand have flourished," says Mr. Pellegrene. "Those trying to live on day-to-day hipness have basically gone out of business."

The Dayton Hudson Corp. division has stayed true to its brand, a fashion-forward discounter with prices below Kohl's Department Stores and above Wal-Mart Stores and Kmart Corp. Target's marketing has moved to expand beyond its circular, currently with 45 million distributed per week, to include TV, magalogs and eclectic efforts and a push into fashion magazines.

But perhaps the core of the company's marketing view is its growing TV branding effort centering around its "Take Charge of Education" program. Target donates 1% of the charge purchase amounts to school scholarships, arts programs and other projects.

John Costello, senior exec VP-marketing at Sears, Roebuck & Co., also believes the key to retail prowess in the last year of the century is branding. That's followed up with an increased focus on customer-relations marketing, particularly in building multicultural markets.

MEASURING ADVERTISING

Most importantly, notes Mr. Costello, who oversees more than $1 billion in advertising each year with $760 million in measured media, according to CMR, advertisers will be more interested in measuring their return on marketing investments.

For Larry Davis, VP-advertising at Kmart, keeping an eye on targeted customers is most critical in keeping momentum in the company's turnaround.

Wal-Mart has had particular return-on-investment success in the marketing arena with an annual budget of just $172 million in measured media according to CMR.

The discounter made retailing history of sorts with a record $1 billion in earnings in a non-holiday quarter for the quarter, the second quarter ending July 31.

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