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‘Brand Generosity’ Pays Off, Target SVP Tells Marketing.FWD Attendees

Just 5% of brand marketers think they are doing an excellent job at making changes based on consumer data, according to Suzanne Vranica, The Wall Street Journal’s advertising editor, who moderated a session Monday morning at VentureBeat’s Marketing.FWD conference, in New York City.

Vranica was on stage interviewing Kristi Argyilan, SVP of media and guest engagement at Target, who talked about how the retail giant uses consumer data to improve the guest experience for its shoppers.

“One of things Target has done is we have shifted more emphasis on the guest and put them in the center,” Argylian said. “As a result, we have a Guest Center of Excellence that distills the data into stories about the guest. It makes the data more relatable for the people in marketing.”

That data often manifests into new ideas at Target, she added. For example, data let Target know last year that its customers crave music when they are watching the Grammys; that resulted in a live commercial from Target featuring Imagine Dragons–the first live ad to ever air during the show. It didn’t promote Target products, either; it was simply more music content for viewers.

This year Target produced a similar ad featuring Gwen Stefani. The ad did contain some branding, but, again, the strategy was to provide viewers with more music content rather than sell products. “It’s risky, of course, to put out commercials like this, but we have found that this type of ‘brand generosity’–as we like to call it–gives us huge spikes in sentiment, intent to shop, and other emotional responses,” Argylian said.

Target is working to figure out how to quantify whether these consumer emotions translate into sales. “Measurement is still a challenge,” Argyilan told the audience. “We need to do more from a measurement standpoint. We are still struggling with figuring out the value of brand love. What does that mean from a sales perspective?”

Argylian also talked about how Target has used social media data for its swim collection. The data told Target that people were tired of the “perfect body.” That insight played a big role in Target’s campaign this year, which focuses on “Swimsuits For Every Body.”

Another learning: Not all guests buy bathing suits in March, which is when Target traditionally began selling and marketing its swimwear. The company has found that youngsters, who have spring break in February, start looking for their beach needs way before March. “We’re now letting data dictate our merchandising strategy,” Argylian said.

Target is already reaping the benefits. It has seen a 15% sales lift for swimwear, which Argylian attributes to its data-based merchandising and that the swimwear merchandise is available online all year.

But Target doesn’t have it all figured out, Argylian admitted. The roadblock for Target (and other marketers, too) is personalizing to the individual.“What I see is that a lot of the time creative work starts with a TV idea,” Argylian said. “Conceptualize, apply the data, and then you get something very interesting. The data helps guide where a concept needs to go.” 

Read related article, “Mondelez CMO: 'Welcome To The New Fluidity'

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