CMO profile: Reclaiming Target’s brand heritage

Marketing leader for the iconic Australian retailer details the masterbrand strategy she's applying, as well as how digital is playing into building brand reach, preference and conversion

Reclaiming Target’s heritage in affordable quality products and harnessing digital to get people to fall back in love with the brand is the sustained objective of general manager of marketing, Jamima White.

And nearly 12 months into the role, she’s spearheaded new ways of working and a masterbrand strategy enterprise-wide in order to achieve it.

White was appointed to the top marketing post at Target last April and came in with a remit to rebuild the brand’s position with Australian consumers. The 94-year-old retailer, part of the Wesfarmers group, spent several years overshadowed by its department store sister company, Kmart, and the latter’s stellar commercial turnaround. Since 2016, Target has undergone years of transformation aimed at achieving a simpler, more streamlined business model with distinct product offerings, experiencing several quarters of falling revenue and profits as it fought to find its way forward.

The new ‘Life tested’ masterbrand campaign, which debuted in February, signals the return to Target’s affordable quality credentials. The campaign showcases several key product lines as tried and tested by everyday Australians through relatable stories. Created in partnership with AJF Partnership, creative highlights Target’s kidswear, womenswear, menswear and homeware products standing up against the consumer test.

‘Life tested’ is Target’s first brand campaign in 10 years and part of a wider ‘That’s Target’ approach. It launched on 13 February across TV, out-of-home, social, online video and in-store with creative initially focused on organic cotton baby overalls, T-shirts, women’s Infinity activewear tights and range of bath towels. On top of this, the ‘life tested’ campaign is being extended to team members and the online community, with both encouraged to share their experiences with Target products.

White saw many pros coming into the brand, pointing to the heritage and love Australians have for Target as key strengths.

“So many people – including myself – grew up wearing Target kidswear and we want our kids to in this gear too,” she told CMO. “I felt an emotional connection, and that was a pro from a brand perspective.  

“The branding icon itself of the red roundel is also one of the most recognised logos in Australian retail. It has so much impact. And there was so much goodwill from my family and friends when I talked about working for Target. I couldn’t see cons, what I could see was it would be a great opportunity to work for an iconic Australian retailer.”  

Prior to launching the masterbrand program of work, it’d been seven years since investment into a strategic brand building platform or long-lasting campaign for Target.

“The evolution of our product offering has been a critical element in terms of where we are at with the masterbrand. We felt the product is looking so good, we should talk about it, encourage people to jump online, go into store and look at the fantastic product quality,” White said. “So there’s the evolution of the product, coupled with the growth of online shopping, that made it feel like the right time to be doing this.”

What’s more, customer insights were clear on the brand position Target needed to take. “All that resulted in the campaign that just launched, but that’s really the second phase in the brand platform launch,” White continued.  

“The ‘That’s target’ tagline initially launched with the Christmas advertising program in late 2021. This is the masterbrand strategy, and it’s designed to be long lasting and play into Target’s heritage as the home of affordable quality.

“This second phase is quite specific in being focused on the durability of our quality merchandise. And it’s to remind customers of that simple and clear brand position Target has long been famous for - quality, value, style. That’s Target.”

Customer and brand parameters

In defining the masterbrand approach, White agreed Covid sentiment and heritage were an influential combination in the mix. On the one hand, research over several years and consumer insights consistently showed customers expect Target to offer durable quality products with great style and value that are affordable.

But growing consumer desire and alignment to more sustainable products has also spiked over the last couple of years. As part of its strategy, Target is listing net zero items and factual quality attributes online to build product authenticity.

“Consumers are looking for ethical sourcing of clothing and sustainability. That has definitely become more important,” White said. “We know you can wear our clothes and use homewares many times before they wear out. That’s important messaging and it’s better for the planet to do so.

“We will continue to talk more about sustainability across the year, including commitments we have signed up as an organisation. Ensuring the authentic message is the critical thing for marketers to land when we tell that narrative to our customers.”   

Then there’s the sense of Australianness that has built up over the last two years of pandemic.

“We are an Australian business and have been part of that shared experience over the last couple of years. For Target, that meant everyone pulled together and supported each other day in, day out,” White said. “All of those things combined to make it the right time for us to promote our brand’s renewal.”

Target remains firmly focused on its customer sweet spot of mums and their growing families. How the retailer hopes to find growth is by reaching more of them across Australia through online shopping. On top of this, White pointed to content as more important than ever in driving customer engagement.

“Ensuring we have refreshed and interesting content that’s relevant is a critical element,” she said. “For example, things like inclusive storytelling and keeping audiences engaged by letting them speak. We have owned assets, but we are incorporating customer comment and feedback too, whether it’s on our website, videos or social channels.

“The other thing from an inclusivity perspective is including team members in the content and experience journey. We are creating videos to share internally but that can also be rolled out via social channels over the year, talking about the quality points they see. When we’re putting the products to the test of everyday life, it’s our team members doing that every day. So along with the designers, including them is important too.”

Another string to the bow is influencer marketing, which has been used to great effect by Target’s sister retailer, Kmart, as well as other retailers and Australian brands.

“We’re starting to build the influencer strategy and that will be rolled out across this platform,” White said. “When you’re trying to reclaim brand heritage, it’s a great way to get out there and share that information quickly.”

Balancing the short and long-term

Driving digital growth is Target’s key focus as an organisation. In its most recent financials for H1, FY2022, parent company, Wesfarmer, noted Target’s digital sales had risen over 10 per cent on previous year’s figures to 26.9 per cent (15.9 per cent in H1, FY21).

“Salience and cut through at the brand level nationally is very important to us,” White said. “Digital critical is key to our objective, and it’s been top of mind as we look at how we drive customer falling back in love with Target but in a digital era, as that’s how customers are engaging.”  

From a marketing perspective, White’s team is using market mix and econometric modelling to manage both brand-level awareness as well as consideration and execution from a media and paid perspective.

“We are trying to drive preference with digital focus and conversion activity as well,” White said. “My personal opinion is you need to excel at all levels to drive real growth in brand performance. All the elements, whether it’s media investment to targeting, narrative and creative execution must be combined to deliver that emotional connection we are looking for.”

As part of its latest execution, Target has invested in digital media across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, digital display and owned channels, plus its Target App and social channels. As White described it, balancing digital media investment while still reach the mass across Australia was a primary objective.

Long-term, measures White is using to gauge success include a sustained objective of reclaiming Target’s heritage position, positive brand sentiment and preference.

“Our business objectives are to reach more Australians through the campaign, particularly to achieve digital growth in terms of online sales,” White said. “So we are trying to drive brand preference, increase addressable audience, focus on mums and the growing family. All these thing needs to happen simultaneously.

“And we need to continue to focus on short-term conversion to our site and trade driving activities. You need short and long-term to work together so you get leading momentum from the campaign. That internally buys support for continuing to invest across a longer period of time.”

Putting a stamp on the Target CMO role

Ensuring everyone across Target is aware and aligned to the brand vision is critical and a key learning White has brought to bear to the role. She’s the sponsor of this across Target and is collaborating with other executives and team members to help get them the information they need to be aligned to that vision.

Jamima WhiteCredit: Target
Jamima White

“The entire business needs to understand the strategy and brand pillars,” White said. “It needs to be embedded in the business and supported by the executive team to be successful. I’ve seen that done well in the past and I’ve always tried when I’ve taken on a new role to bring those learnings to the new role.

“I’ve been really pleased with the support from the entire Target team with this relaunch. Everyone has gotten behind it and I feel comfortable being clear with the vision and aligning the enterprise to the brand pillars has been something we’ve really focused on.”

White’s second learning as a marketing chief is recognising the rapid growth of digital growth and multi-channel marketing and ensuring content is fit for purpose.

“Being up to date and aware of the latest digital and multi-channel trends is really important. So keeping our eyes open and not being internally focused but looking out to see what everyone is doing is key,” she said.  

“The third thing is remaining focused on the customer and not getting side-tracked by internal objectives. We must always anchor to the target customer and what they are expecting. A good example is we’re running a story around a mum called ‘lost track of time’. She’s wearing her activewear and having a coffee when she realises she’s supposed to be in a yoga class. Mums have always been really busy, so that message stands the test of time while being shown in a way that’s contemporary and reflecting what’s important to our customers.”

At a functional level, White has been working to improve operational rhythms to execute the brand and marketing work more effectively. This has seen her roll out new systems including digital asset management (DAM), workflow tools and personalisation software for Web and mobile app integrations.

“The purpose is to set us up for digital content at scale and ensuring things can rapidly be accelerated. Foundational systems were a quick win for us to set up,” she said. “We’re also working extensively on capability upskilling, particularly around digital. This is also about keeping abreast of trends pertaining to social, influencers and more.”

White saw 2022 as an exciting time for marketers and brand builders.

“The macro trends are clear for everyone to see. That sense if you’re an Australian brand of talking about your heritage is exciting for brands and CMOs,” she added. “And I do think the Australian public is genuinely interested in having other things to think about, not just the daily Covid press conference.”  

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