January 30, 2023

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Ad Age 2021 Best Marketers: Target

To that end, Target is already focusing on making its store experience worth any extra cost. Over the summer, the chain rolled out Ulta shops within 100 Target stores and on its e-commerce site with the goal to eventually reach 800 store sites. A similar initiative with Disney has helped to boost Target as a toy destination for families with young children. The new Lego collaboration goes beyond bricks to include home and apparel items designed specifically by both brands for an exclusive offering. A series of products “designed to be playful, spark creativity and fill your holiday season with joy,” according to Target’s site, include a Lego stripe cardigan, color-blocked dog collar and decorative Lego brick-style storage box with handle. Each collaboration gets its own marketing push—the new Lego partnership, for example, is connected to Target’s broader holiday campaign and has been running across digital, influencer channels, along with spaces like YouTube where Lego lovers typically gather. In addition, Target hosted an interactive outdoor event for families in November to spread the Lego word.

“It’s about having the right portfolio and mix of brands that our guests love,” said Sylvester. “We’re giving them fewer reasons to shop anywhere else.”

She and her team of 2,000 marketing and digital employees have also focused on building loyalty, offering periodic promotions designed to help more cost-conscious consumers while also building brand enthusiasm. Target’s loyalty program, Target Circle, now boasts 100 million members.

“Improvements in stores, to online services, and to products have all allowed it to take advantage of prevailing conditions to a greater extent than many other retailers,” wrote Saunders.

At a time when many brands are paying more attention to diversity initiatives, Target has been vocal about its commitments to equality and specifically the Black community, where the marketer plans to spend more than $2 billion by the end of 2025. Target increased its investment in Black-owned and Latin-owned media for its holiday ad campaign by a double-digit percentage; the advertising showcases Black-owned brands including Scotch & Porter and Black Cards Revoked. 

In the retailer’s holiday spot this year, families are shown celebrating a diverse number of holidays, including Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali and the Lunar New Year.

“It’s making sure in our holiday campaign that we are truly trying to represent our guests in all the ways our guests may feel that holiday season,” said Sylvester. She added that Target is “moving from an episodic touchpoint to always-on.” Previously, the chain would have had a big push around Black History Month but now makes such marketing investments year-round.

Along with fostering connections with its customers, Target is also building its reputation with brands. The retailer rebranded its media business as Roundel two years ago, long before most competitors recognized the valuable customer data retailers have access to. Since then, chains including Lowe’s, Albertsons and Dollar Tree have all started their own media networks for advertisers.

“This isn’t new for us,” said Sylvester. “We saw the rich opportunity to say we want to make sure we’re providing our guests and our partners with the most value.”

See all of Ad Age’s 2021 Marketers of the Year here.


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