Target Comes Out Swinging With Aggressive Holiday Marketing Strategy

'Christmas Champ' is Retired to Make Way For 'Deal Duet'

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Target is leaving nothing to chance this holiday season, with a strategy focused on both the emotion of gift giving as well as competitive promotions that emphasize price.

Jeff Jones
Jeff Jones

The retailer's executives unveiled at a media event Tuesday plans for aggressive promotional pricing, a heavy rotation of holiday ads in October and November and tactics -- such as a price-match guarantee against a group of competitors that includes popular online retailers such as Amazon -- to ensure customers can "shop with confidence." The overarching theme for the holiday campaign, which is being handled by 72andSunny, is Dream Big . Save Bigger.

"Guests are feeling better about finances and are more comfortable considering larger purchases," said Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel. "We will be highly promotional and intensely competitive on price, delivering the exceptional value consumers want. … I believe this is an outstanding fourth quarter strategy, all about providing the right merchandise and deals at the right time for consumers throughout the season."

Jeff Jones, Target 's recently appointed chief marketing officer, said the "Big Dog" spot from 72andSunny, which began airing last week, is intended to lay the "value foundation" for the holiday season. It carries an upbeat tune with the chorus, "Are You Ready?"

Target 's Big Dog holiday ad.

"There are three different kinds of guests. A group that are planners, a group that are doers, and there's a group that are procrastinators. We think about our strategy in terms of those people who earlier and earlier are planning for the holidays," said Mr. Jones. "There's no magic on what the right start date is ."

In years past, Target has been vocal about its strategy to not start holiday ads, with the exception of its two-day sale ads, before Thanksgiving. Mr. Jones says the shift is the result of a number of factors, including guest surveys, the retailer's business objectives and the reality that competitors are discussing holiday earlier and earlier. A number of retailers, including rival Walmart have already been promoting layaway options.

After Halloween, Target will begin promoting the holiday in earnest. There will be a series of ads focused both on gift inspiration and on getting the best deal. One spot shows a young girl pulling a Target bag off a closet shelf and climbing in to find a world populated by skating legos and frolicking toys. Another spot shows a father checking out at the store, imagining the glowing reactions his family will have to the perfect gifts in his cart. In a new twist for the retailer, there will be a focus on "shoppable media" with consumers able to purchase items seen in broadcast spots.

As Black Friday approaches, Target will debut a new perky couple, the Deal Duet, replacing the Christmas Champ -- a.k.a. comedian Maria Bamford -- who has starred in ads for the last three years. The duet, one male, one female, pop up in consumers' homes singing about the deals available at Target on Black Friday. Execs said Target will "leak" its Black Friday deals earlier than ever before. (See our poll and weigh in on whether holiday deals should start on Thanksgiving or hold off until Black Friday.)

"I love the modern humor that they bring. They're not snarky. They're positive and funny," Mr. Jones said of the Deal Duet. "There's a hard value message with a great Target wink."

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