Tuesday, 20 January 2015



Way Off Target


Target Corporation did indeed change the Canadian retail landscape. Shopping malls across the country are now lacking a major anchor tenant. The department store’s Dunkirk, the epic fiasco of its first foreign foray is the paradoxical result of hitherto exceptional branding.


Logos and wordmarks are visual representations of a brand. Any steer would say so. Target’s graphic identity is sublime in its simplicity, its ease of application for any medium and its instant identification; it doesn’t get any more basic than a dot within a circle. Symbols, while often easily rendered, carry a lot of abstract weight.


A brand is a tacit contract between its purveyors and its adherents, sellers to buyers: In exchange for your money and your loyalty we will provide you with status or self-esteem or something as mundane as a decent product at a reasonable price; you have expectations of us which we will meet and strive to exceed. It’s all about the consumer’s carefully manipulated perception. The curse of evolving a commodity or service into a beloved brand is a razor-thin tightrope, the margin for error becomes miniscule and it’s a long way down from the giddy heights of an engineered acme.


Target’s brand equity in Canada before its expansion into this country was pure gold. The vast majority of Canada’s citizens live within a reasonable proximity to the American border. Target was a destination worth enduring Customs for. Cheap chic fashion and other goods of seemingly better quality than those rummaged in Wal-Mart and anyway, no one up here had ever scrolled through an e-mail photo montage entitled ‘Shoppers of Target.’ Low cost class, eh? The Canadian financial press was as excited as Canadian consumers, goodwill and thrill.

There are two billion hard excuses for Target’s colossal crash in Canada and they range from market hubris to incorrect bar codes. The reality of Target’s failure is actually a tad more ethereal. The brand broke on the crucible of perception. Target’s American promises fell short of Canadian expectations. It was held hostage by its own image. Now we all know that Target is a brand that can’t shoot straight.

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