Nadine Spencer

The Cost of Marketing

When Target announced that they would be expanding to Canada, the news was met with a lot of excitement. Being a brand with a widespread reputation for excellence and variety, the arrival of Target brought with it a lot of promise.  But when visiting the stores on opening day, I was actually quite disappointed in their offerings. It was akin to receiving a fancy gift with a big bow, but with nothing inside.

Last week, the American retailer not only announced the shuttering of 133 Canadian store locations, but also the fact that it owes hundreds of other companies over 3.4 billion dollars. Having followed Target’s Canadian experiment closely over the years, I believe that the brand overspent on an inefficient marketing strategy.

Advertising is an important part of any business, but it is vital that a brand invest in a campaign that not only works, but also does so in an economical fashion. Return on investment must be a key consideration when creating a marketing plan, as is the efficacy of an ad strategy. It is not enough to saturate the market with images and media. People matter, and at its core a good marketing strategy must connect with people on an emotional level. Whether this involves a grassroots focus or the use of national media is immaterial, as long as the campaign is effective, inspiring, and exhibits a satisfactory ROI. To often large advertising agencies are just as disconnected from the reality of the consumer as the clients who have hired them to create connections. When both the brand and the advertising team are unable to see the world from the point of view of the consumer, the ultimate result will always be failure.

Too often, marketing agencies grow at the expense of their connection with the real world. As their focus on reputation and resources increase, these firms can lose touch with what really matters—having their finger on the pulse of their market. What is missing from these agencies is an on-the-ground approach, a recollection of what it means to be a normal person with normal concerns, tastes, and finances. Perhaps it was this abandonment of its core consumer base that has caused what was once a hugely successful brand to fall upon hard times. Maybe the simple act of straying from time-proven, grassroots, heartfelt marketing is what ultimately led Target to miss the bull’s eye.

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