Target Delivering on Promise?

You’re consumers.  What does it feel like when you’re enticed by a marketing message only to find the reality falls short of your expectation?  How do you respond to that disappointment?  Our focus today is how easy it is to flush your marketing investments down the drain.

Recently a Target customer related her dissatisfaction with the store.  It had always been a favorite of hers for health and cleaning products and household goods so why the sudden dissatisfaction?  Here’s what she said.

“Ever since they’ve added the grocery section, they’ve cut back on the number of checkout lanes in use.  There are 14 lanes and typically only two are manned at any one time.  That means that you have people with more items in their cart trying to get through fewer checkout lanes.  It’s stupid!”

Now, think about Target’s ads.  They’re bright, colorful and fast-paced.  Contrast that feeling with the customer just described.  Huge disconnect!

Those of us involved in branding and marketing are well aware of the fact that a brand promise goes well beyond what we claim and how we present ourselves to what the customer actually experiences.  Yet human nature being what it is we sometimes forget and stub our toes as Target has in this situation.

That’s pretty lame isn’t it?  If excuse ourselves simply because we forgot or lost sight of our brand promise, can we expect the customer to do the same.  Would you?

I couldn’t help but wonder how many more waits in the checkout line this Target customer would tolerate before she found an alternative.  I suspect not many more.  If that’s the case then those lively, attractive Target ads will elicit, in the earshot of others, the lament that their stores don’t live up to the ads.  Ouch!  That’s expensive.

If you’re like me you can’t help wondering, why the change?  Why is it, as this customer indicated, did Target go from having 10 to 14 lanes open to only having two?

This is pure speculation on my part, but the addition of the grocery operation would typically put pressure on profit margins because groceries operate on very thin margins.  The lower margins on grocery items means that the profits and the cash generated from those profits aren’t adequate to provide both the level of service that customers desire and the returns investors require.  The decision was made, whether consciously or subconsciously, to sacrifice the customer experience.

Whatever the reason, the lesson here is that we have to be constantly vigilant to assure we’re delivering on our brand promise.  Once lost, customer confidence is almost impossible to regain.  Worse yet, our marketing messages will trigger less than favorable commentary from those customers we disappointed.

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