Leadership Solutions Blog


This is shocking to me, but Target’s culture and communications strategy did not make the list of major factors that were attributed to its turnaround success in any of the articles and research used to create this resource. However, it is very obvious that this view from Rick Gomez, the Chief Marketing Officer at Target, as expressed in this interview in Forbes, describes the reason for the success of Target in executing its strategy.

Here are a few snippets from the interview:

“We are constantly looking at how we show up in the world - with a strong focus on inclusivity, because the road to growth is of bringing people in and making everyone feel like they belong when they are shopping at Target.”

“More than three-quarters of Americans live within a short drive of a Target store. We’re accessible to everyone through our app and website. That means the days of a singular view of the Target guest are over.

“... inclusivity. This is something I can’t stress enough. That’s why I’d encourage every brand to think about the stories they’re telling through their marketing. Really look hard at how you’re showing up and the messages you’re sending. And then ask, “Who am I missing? Who else can I invite in?” I think there’s a tremendous opportunity out there for brands that can find those universal truths that are relevant to their business and use those to not only bring people in, but to bring people together.”

It’s not my job to interpret this for you as the reader, but I will share what I see when I read this. Communications is at the heart of driving Target’s strategy.

Their entire strategy is based on the foundational idea of bringing people in and making them feel like they belong, not on convincing people of Target’s greatness.

In order to accomplish this, Target spent a lot of time getting to know their customer so they knew what to send them and when to engage them. Target, like Home Depot and others, used data for value creation (not value extraction) and constantly evaluated how their differentiated audience was interacting with them. The end goal was to make the customer feel like the hero.

We recently hosted Jeff Henderson, a Chick-fil-A executive, pastor, and the author of Know What You’re For, to speak at one of our Innovation Labs. One of the things that Jeff repeated is that a brand is no longer what you say about yourself, but rather what other people say about you to other people. For Target, the marketing strategy is about creating an experience that people remarked about to their friends. It was about invitation through storytelling, where the customer is the hero, not the brand. By making the customer the hero, more people wanted to belong at Target. The success of Target in its digital marketing is that people feel like Target is for them. As a result, Target has not only created a consumer base, but a fan base. Meaning, people don’t just buy from the store, people are at the heart of the marketing strategy as participants who share their experience with their friends, who then also want to belong as Target customers.

Are we constantly evaluating how we are showing up in the world—i.e. evaluating what we’re known for (actual) versus what we want to be known for (aspirational)? If so, how?

Does our communications strategy tell people about us and what we are doing (content, sermons, programs, etc.), or do we use our communications platform to invite people in and give them a place to belong?

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