Retail Advertising Conference News

TARGET EXEC TAKES SWIPE AT MARTHA STEWART

Suggests Her Kmart Connection Is 'Not a Good Thing'

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CHICAGO (AdAge.com) -- Taking a jab at Martha Stewart as he lauded his own company's policies, Target Corp.'s senior vice president of marketing told a
Target targets Martha Stewart's problems as something to avoid.
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conference here that "we don't want to be co-opted by a single personality who might someday have a negative impact on our brand character."

"That's not a good thing," Target's Michael Francis said, adapting a line from Martha Stewart, whose household collection is carried by Kmart.

No single celebrity
In his remarks to the Retail Advertising Conference, sponsored by the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association at the Chicago Hilton yesterday, Mr. Francis explained how Target had signed almost a dozen designers for individual projects rather than depending on any single personality. He said the policy was designed to protect Target from the sort of public relations disaster that has enveloped Ms. Stewart and Kmart in the wake of Ms. Stewart's insider trading imbroglio.

As it attempts to work itself out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, Kmart's situation is widely perceived to have been complicated as Ms. Stewart's own brand has taken a hit.

Target, on the other hand, has diversified its private-label lineup, starting with architect Michael Graves and now including Hollywood makeup artist Sonia Kashuk; designers Mossimo, Phillippe Starck, Stephen Sprouse, Marc Ecko, Todd Oldham, Cynthia Rowley, Liz Lange, and Isaac Mizrahi; and illustrator David Kirk. "We're careful to support Target as a destination for great design," Mr. Francis said.

Target's logo
Mr. Francis told conference attendees that a recent survey found Target's logo is a brand icon recognized by 96% of the population, more than Nike's swoosh or the Ralph Lauren pony.

Target Chairman Bob Ulrich now has a new dictum: He wants to own the color red. Red has long been a popular color in retail for its eye-catching power. They won't have any competition on that score from Kmart, which recently redesigned its logo in a shade of green.

Mr. Francis also told conference attendees that branding would fail unless every leader in the company is behind it. "If you think in terms of allocating a fixed percent of your budget to brand building, you are doomed to fail," he said. "If you think in terms of launching a branding 'campaign,' you are doomed to fail. Campaigns end. Brands endure."

Media buzz
Mr. Francis also noted that creating buzz is an important element of the Target brand. "Media buzz can have an amazing multiplying effect on your ad budget," he said. "Last spring, Mercedes Benz spent $8 million to be the name sponsor of Fashion Week. Target spent next to nothing. By the end of the week, though, the most visible and newsworthy story coming out of New York didn't have anything to do with the new E-Class series. The buzz could be summarized in three words: Sprouse at Target."

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