Monday, January 21, 2008

Target and its core audience - I finally catch up with the Target Rounders brouhaha

First, an update for those of you (including myself) who don't necessarily read every comment to every message in this blog.

You'll recall the original story as I wrote it. Amy Jussel saw a Target ad which raised some questions in her mind. Jussel contacted Target about this. Target's response stated, in part:

[U]nfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

(Note that Target may be re-evaluating its policy.)

In my post, I referred to a 2005 post by Robert Scoble in which he described a meeting with marketing and PR folks at Target. I subsequently asked him about this post in the comments section of his own blog:

Question - back in 2005, you met with some “PR and marketing folks” at Target and told them about the influence of bloggers. What do you think happened? Why do you think the message never reached the person who originally responded to Amy Jussel?

Robert's response:

Ontario: they are run by very traditional PR folks: command and control.

Eventually I want to write about this thought, but NOT in the context of Target. I'll skip doing this for now (even if it would make my post "meaty") to return to Target's little statement about reaching its core guest. On a search this afternoon, it turns out that Target is not quite so averse to social media. This story is from December 1, 2007:

Target Corp. is learning the hard way that life in the blogosphere can put you right in the bullseye.

The Minneapolis-based discount retailer is being outed in online blogs and discussed in college ethics classes after students allied with the company were told to "keep it like a secret" while singing the company's praises on the social network site

"Keep it a secret? That sounds unethical," said Rosie Siman, 21, a senior at the University of Georgia and a member of the Target Rounders. The group of mostly college students gets discounts, CDs and other prizes for marketing Target products to their friends and providing the company with feedback.

For further reading, please see the Code of Conduct for the Target Rounders. Note what it says. Note what it doesn't say.

Well, it's important to note a big distinction between the Target Rounders and the Amy Jussels of the world.

What is it? You guessed it - "command and control."

While the Target Rounders appear to be bidirectional, since they do provide feedback to Target, it appears that their main value was in their ability to market Target products. And if they did something wrong, then Target could cut off the flow of discounts and CDs and stuff (although I don't know if that age group even buys CDs, come to think of it).

Amy Jussel, however, is completely independent of Target. She may say bad things about Target's advertising, or she may say good things, but her opinion is uncolored by any possible benefits that Target could be providing to her.

Now, which opinion will you value more - the opinion of a Target Rounder, or the opinion of Amy Jussel?

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