CMO interview: Turning around Target

Marketing director at the iconic Australian department store shares the brand and customer-led transformation efforts to date and how insights are informing everything from strategy to product and marketing campaigns

Kenton Elliot
Kenton Elliot


It’s this consistency in strategy Elliot believes has led to stronger and clearer briefs and given Target’s lead agency, AJF, more freedom to do better work.

Starting with winter/fall in May, marketing and online creative has had a more fashion-led approach showcasing the quality of product, style and way it comes together, he says. The latest example is Target’s new ‘Play Wild’ kids campaign, which celebrates product and is based on a ‘getting back to nature trend’ product range designed by its Design Council.

Shot in the Redwoods in the Otways, the campaign, which kicked off on 16 September, celebrates kids running wild to create their own magical world and individual look. It’s running across TV, cinema, online and social media and features the Skrillex track, ‘Bangarang’.

“Identifying and articulating those trends allows us to develop a set of communications that help us celebrate the product in more engaging ways,” Elliot says. “The results of the campaigns combined have been really positive for us, and helped us understand that communications code.

“We have the full support from the leadership team to build brand preference for Target as a quality fashion retailer. We’re lucky as we have a brand that’s well known, with great products starting to come through enabling us to tell much better stories.

“Our womens activewear campaign [launched in August and including TV, online, social and gym advertising] has also shown when you get great product and you combine it with great creative advertising, it works.”

Supporting this is a broad media mix focus aimed at driving mass reach. “We need to get consistent product with brilliant marketing that re-engages our customers to come back,” Elliot adds. “It’s also about getting the store network right so it makes it easy for mum when she walks in the door.”

Read more: Target CEO: We want brand love with mass reach

It’s this approach Elliot believes will help Target retain relevance in the face of Amazon’s Australian market expansion. “Our focus is on getting great product and what we can control. And that is getting our designers to create great products that meet mum’s needs,” he says.

“We’re really focused on embracing the change and building one customer voice across the business. The second thing is making sure my team has the right processes and creative freedom to do better work. If we get these two things right, the commercial [success] will follow.”

What’s clear from the financials is there’s still a way to go as Target completes its ‘reset’. According to 2018 financials filed by parent company, Wesfarmers, Target’s focus remains on improving product fashionability and quality, accelerating the online proposition and optimising the store network, progressive store renewal trials and resetting space, and further reducing end-to-end costs and working capital.

Meantime, total sales growth remains in negative, although earnings growth has come thanks to a combination of direct sourcing, lower markdowns and improved sales mix and productivity improvements. Over the past year, the department store cited growth in online, menswear and homewares, and advanced its online offering with expanded ranges and improved capabilities.   

Through all of this, Elliot believes the attributes marketing needs the most are positivity, perseverance and clarity.

“Marketing is an exciting space to be in, and it’s our job is to help drive positive growth across the business,” he concludes. “I’m excited about what we have done so far but also what we will be able to achieve moving forward. That’s about being customer led and creating quality fashion.”

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