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Fixing What Ain’t Broke at Target

What’s in this article:

  • Target’s possible new tagline is much longer than “Expect More. Pay Less,” and sounds more like a complaint than a solution

Since1984, Target has used the tagline “Expect More. Pay Less.”  It’s very similar to Walmart’s “Save Money. Live Better.” The retailers understood their role was to deliver value to their customers.

That approach certainly paid off for the two whose sales increased tremendously during 2020. In fact, Target’s sales growth for just 2020 amounted to $15 billion, surpassing its gains for the previous 11 years of business put together, according to CNN’s report.

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Like Walmart, Target was well-positioned to deliver to its customers during lockdowns. The stores were allowed to remain open even while some others were shuttered in states like New York.

More importantly, the retailers were able to deliver to those who didn’t want to enter a store at all, thanks to their robust online system. Target even made fresh grocery delivery affordable through Shipt that either charged $10 per order or just $99 for the whole year.

Target’s New Tagline

But at the beginning of 2021, Target appointed a new chief marketing and digital officer named Cara Sylvester, and she seems intent to make her mark. Nothing makes more of a mark than changing the tagline in use for nearly four decades.

The new one, as Adweek reported, is to be “What we value most shouldn’t cost more.”

While that sentiment is very close to the original brand promise of value for less, it’s actually far weaker. It is neither making a promise for the brand to deliver, nor is it coming up with a clear solution.

It’s implied that they care about this, but they don’t actually promise a fix or a real direction for customers. This kind of vagueness is what Sylvester believes is about connection.

As she told Adweek, “In today’s world, both marketing and retail is all about understanding the consumer and pursuing the most meaningful, authentic connections.”
Perhaps so, for certain brands, that really is a part of their integral identity. But it’s really not what brings customers to Target. I’m a Target customer myself, and I can tell you, you don’t enter the store expecting a meaningful connection. We expect to find what we need in stock at a good price, and some of us may even use the self-checkout and so avoid even connecting with a cashier on the most superficial level.

But aside from that, the tagline fails as a slogan. Slogans are meant to be short, to the point, and indicative of a call to action.

When Nike declares, “Just do it,” they’re using just three syllables to not only capture a feeling but direct customers to act on it. Apple’s “Think different” did the same thing.

Unoriginal though it may be, the original Target tagline captured its mission statement with a clear CTA to customers in just four short words. It’s now being replaced by something much longer that sounds more like a complaint than a solution.

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