Target Handpicks Brand Partners for Sustainable 'Made to Matter' Push

CMO Strategy Summit: Jeff Jones on Retailer's Unusual Initiative

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It's green-friendly, but Target's latest marketing initiative runs on cut-throat competition too. To join the program -- "Made to Matter," a collaborative effort with natural, sustainable and organic product brands -- companies need to pass muster with some critical judges.

The co-founders of the program had to pitch an entire Target boardroom of team members on their products, Plum Organics President Neil Grimmer recalled at Ad Age's CMO Strategy Summit conference in San Francisco on Wednesday.

"I wanted to make sure I blew away Neil's presentation," interjected Eric Ryan, co-founder of Method, another early participant.

Mr. Grimmer laughed. "That didn't happen," he said.

But both succeeded in getting their products into the effort. Target's "Made to Matter" partnership portfolio now includes sixteen different brands, giving the retailer an exclusive pipeline of over 100 products in return for end cap displays, colossal scale and the benefit of the marketing behind the program.

Although they are competitors, the companies involved are more invested in propelling the category than robbing market share, the trio of executives claimed. "All the companies that signed up for the plan had to say they were going to play well in the sandbox," Mr. Grimmer.

Jeff Jones, Target exec VP-CMO, said the categories in the portfolio have seen "double digit" growth, before aid from paid media. Still, Target is now turning to conventional advertising for the initiative to chase consumers following the trend. "If you see that seal," he said, "that can be a short-cut to know that's something better for you."

"This has the potential to be, in this category, what Rx was for the pharmaceutical business," he added.

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