How Target Missed the Mark

A highly anticipated collaboration, the Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday Collection had been expected by both the company and the broad spectrum of their consumers, (myself included), to be a mass sellout success. The biggest campaign and partnership of its kind, Target summoned 24 of the biggest names in fashion to create a highly sought after collection of affordable designer products.

A similar collaboration in 2011, the Missoni for Target Collection, was so successful that products sold out in minutes and crashed the Target website. Everyone believed it would be no different this time around, with Target beefing up their website capacity to handle the mass shopping craze, placing buying limits on certain items, doubling inventory, and opening stores early in anticipation of eager customers lining up outside. Target CEO and chairman, Gregg Steinhafel hinted that it would be a stretch if the collection did not sell out in the first week.

Despite the hype, the frenzy quickly dissolved amidst a disappointing reveal. And just this week, a little over a month since its arrival, Target can barely seem to give this stuff away—slashing prices and discounting the entire collection by 70% off.


How could something so right go so wrong?

How did such a brilliant idea marketed with a beautifully executed high-budget campaign ultimately fail? Target lost touch with their consumer. The very people that buy in to Target’s affordable-chic lifestyle were somehow forgotten. Target had strayed from its own strategy and failed to bring design to the masses in an inexpensive and real way. 


Target failed to provide value to its consumer.

The selection of product offerings were not an abundance of “must-have” items, but an odd array of luxury objects that didn’t quite resonate with the people who were actually willing and excited to buy them. Not only were they specialty items, like a $500 Alice + Olivia bicycle or a $70 Philip Crangi Trinket Box, but they were also perceived as over-priced and out-of-touch. Thus, much of the collection did not present any value to the typical Target fashion and budget conscious shopper.  Interestingly, the price points seemed at odds with Target’s “Expect More. Pay Less.” mantra. 


More like “Expect Less. Pay More.”

I was personally excited to see the Marc Jacobs portion of the collection. I often pay real designer prices for all things MJ, so I was particularly looking forward to seeing this designer’s aesthetic play out in some affordable goods. Like many other shoppers, I was sorely disappointed to find that not only was his collection limited to two items, a pouch and a scarf, but also the items didn’t even look distinctly Marc Jacobs. The scarf was plain, black and looked like something I could find anywhere, and probably cheaper. It lacked any of the distinct MJ patterns or styles I loved. Besides the tiny MJ logo, the pouches were similarly ordinary and felt cheap despite both items selling for about $60. $60 seemed overpriced considering that for a little more money I could just buy the real thing. Why would I want to pay that much for a diluted version of my favorite brand?


Lesson Learned: Know Your Audience

If there is one thing we can learn from Target’s misstep it is this: You must know your audience. You must intimately understand your consumer and consider them in every decision. It does not matter how beautiful or expensive your marketing campaign is or how grand your idea. At the end of the day, all that matters is that your brand, service, or product creates value for your consumer.


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