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Walmart Snaps Up Ex-Target Marketing Guru

Walmart has recently announced that its long-time chief marketing officer, Stephen Quinn, will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year. Taking his place will be Michael Francis, who helped to engineer Target’s “cheap-chic” image. Perhaps Walmart is hoping he can bring some of that magic to its marketing mix.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Francis — who spent nearly three decades at Target as a marketing consultant — will undertake a major revamping of Walmart’s marketing department and work closely with Quinn’s successor, Tony Rogers, said a person familiar with the situation.

“I’m committed to building on the strength of that brand, and I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity,” Francis said in a statement.

The article goes on to articulate a tumultuous couple of years professionally for Francis since his departure from Target. He spent time at JCPenney Co., where he served as president under then-CEO Ron Johnson. But the changes that Johnson implemented turned out to be a disastrous strategy, attempting to wean customers off discounts, and spelled an eight-month stay for Francis. Executives blamed “poor marketing” that offered little detail on product or pricing for the dramatic decline in sales. After JCPenney, Francis briefly advised Gap Inc. and later joined DreamWorks in 2013 as chief global brand officer. In August, he said he would step down from his role at DreamWorks.

This, WSJ points out, is just the latest in a number of changes the world’s largest retailer has made in recent months to its executive team. CEO Doug McMillon is attempting to focus the company’s investments on long-term goals, like boosting eCommerce sales and making stores more efficient, as well as appealing to higher-income shoppers, according to the WSJ article.

“Globally, we know growth will disproportionately come from middle- and upper-income households in the years ahead,” said McMillon at an investor presentation earlier this fall.

Attracting middle- and upper-income households is something Francis excelled at in his time at Target, and Walmart is certainly hoping that that particular brand of lightning will strike twice.

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