12 Days of PR Bliss: Missing A Target Opportunity

Written by: Tommy Nguyen

Edited by: Nani Moleko

How the American retail giant failed to gain proper footing into markets north of the border from a public relations point of view.

Target Canada experienced an abysmal first year of operation since opening 124 stores across Canada in 2013. The American-based retail corporation failed to recognize the consumer habits of its neighbours to the north and a lack of brand identity failing to capture the public’s attention. With an appalling 47 per cent loss of revenue in Canada thus far, Target Canada will need a complete image overhaul.

Public opinion is crucial to a successful company launch.  A number of reasons contribute to the less than stellar outcome of Target’s first venture outside of the U.S., but the most revenue impacting of these factors is lack of consumer knowledge. Understanding target audiences forms the foundation of all business, regardless of size. Public relations and more specifically consumer relations efforts dictate brand success. Once a company understands the needs of its target audience, then can the image building begin.

The most successful brands can be visualized as people with little effort. Target Canada needs to adopt the same methods that have built brands into successful entities by humanizing and giving their brand a certain look and feel. Consumers naturally justify where and why they choose to shop at various places. Whether that reason is social, economic, or situational, there will always be a market for that intended audience. These factors are then given an image to create a sense of personalization and exclusivity to be targeted towards its audience, thus creating a relationship between brand and consumer.

Should Target Canada continue overlooking brand identity and not adapt to Canadian consumer habits, the American retailer will sustain heavy revenue losses year-after-year and may even cease its operations in Canada altogether. It will take an internal massive restructuring effort to get Target towards a financially stable position. The avenues for success may be steep, but are not impossible to attain. By understanding the various factors that have impeded the success of Target in Canada, progress can start to form. An emphasis on consumer relations will enhance the customer experience, which is critical in a retail environment. Brand identity must embody the organization’s strengths and values and reflects consumer choices, which often answer the important questions of, ‘why am I shopping here?’

With an influx of American retailers coming to Canada in the next few years, will the retailers learn lessons from Target’s short-comings?

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