Target’s Experiential Marketing Magic Show

It’s Bullseye! You know … the Target mascot. You don’t quite recognize him? That might be because Target hasn’t really featured the dog in much of its on-air or in-store advertising — that is, until recently.

Bullseye, the “scrappy and fearless” mascot, has made a resurgence into the retail chain’s marketing, a sign that after the slump of the 2008 recession and a resulting focus on value, Target is gearing up to bring back a flashier marketing presence.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, Bullseye — or rather the three different dogs, two of which are rescues, who play the role on a rotating basis — has been making appearances, both live and in marketing promotions, for the brand. It’s the first time in over a decade that the pooch is starring in TV spots, including one promoting a Christmas digital storybook app for children.

Bullseye is also taking on a larger in-store role with as many as 1,400 Target stores installing “Bullseye benches,” where customers can take a picture with a replica of the mascot. The discount section at the front of many stores is also being transformed into “Bullseye’s Playground,” complete with blown-up Bullseye dolls, as well as a number of seasonal items, on display.

“We started thinking about how to bring Bullseye to more people,” said Jeff Jones, Target’s chief marketing officer. “It’s a fun dog, so scrappy and fearless.” This marks a distinct departure from the “Expect More, Pay Less” formula that Target has focused on in the past few years.

Now, as NYT points out, with growing competition from even deeper discounters, like T.J.Maxx and Ross Stores, plus fast-fashion retailers, like H&M and Zara, the retailer’s net earnings — which hit more than $3 billion in the early 2000s — have slumped since, with a loss of $1.6 billion last year, due in part to losses from its since-abandoned expansion into Canada.

Target is now hunting for a new strategy to bring the magic back to its marketing. This new marketing push is being led by its chief executive, Brian Cornell, who joined the retailer from PepsiCo last year. With digital advertising making up about 60 percent of Target’s media spending, compared with just a fraction only five years ago, Bullseye is sure to be seen in more social promotions soon.

Overall, according to the NYT story, Target spent nearly as much as Walmart on advertising in the first nine months of the year — $335 million compared to $367 million — even though its sales are less than a quarter of Walmart’s, according to Kantar Media.

But early indicators suggest that the Bullseye-led advertising blitz is paying off for Target. According to Socialbakers, a social media analytics company, Target ads made up four of the top 10 most-viewed YouTube ads between Nov. 1 through Dec. 14. “What breed is the Target dog?” was also one of the most popular dog-related Google searches this year. This seems to suggest Bullseye has been right on the money so far.


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