Monday, November 19, 2012

Hello Canada! Expect More. Pay Less. Is that eh ok?

Target Canada will face stiff competition when it arrives in 2013. I believe that Target  can convince Canadian consumers to chose them over the other guy if they position themselves correctly. That being said,  how can Target accomplish this? Most importantly, can Canadians truly embrace Target as THE new upscale discounter in their fine country?

Similarly to the U.S., Target caters to women. This target audience is characterized as having significant purchasing power, they exercise great influence as opinion leaders and are "multi-minded". As the Canadian economy is quite strong, their purchasing power will work in Target’s favour as they will be instrumental in deciding whether or not their household will shop at Target or continue to acquire their goods at other large  Canadian retailers.

Firstly, Target must ensure that its brand and its "bull’s eye" logo becomes top of mind for Canadian consumers. In order to accomplish this objective, they will need to integrate it into their marketing and public relations tactics and play up its colours as their logo  and the Canadian flag share the same colours. Also, their upscale discounter image can be successful in Canada if Target continuously communicates their strong value proposition of  "Expect More.Pay Less" as part of their overall strategy.

We must also consider Target's competition such as Walmart, Canadian Tire, Sears Canada and JOE Fresh. To counter this threat, Target must continue to position itself as a trendy and hip retailer whose mission it is to ensure its guests live a unique shopping experience while acquiring high quality items at discount prices. This will help differentiate them from Walmart, for example, as they prefer to focus on offering consumers everyday low prices.

This leads us to the exciting part: Tactics! To successfully enter Canada, Target will need  to integrate Canada's cultural diversity into its tactics. As they have never encountered this challenge, I've come up with a few suggestions to help them receive a warm welcome from my fellow Canucks.

My first attempt to create buzz and excitement around the Target brand would be to stage a special event in popular shopping malls across Canada. I would send out press kits to local fashion reporters and invite local bloggers to attend the event.  The special event would feature models wearing Target's designer clothing and Target representatives would give out goodie bags while serving local fare, for example, mini poutines in MontrĂ©al.

The main attraction would be a large version of the Target logo. People could potentially win  a variety of Target gift cards by playing darts with the logo. The maximum prize would be $1,000 and presented to people who reached the center of the bull’s eye.

The second tactic will build on Target’s design for all mantra and would be announced a week after the special event. Target would launch a new designer competition and encourage Canadian designers from across the country to create an apparel line for their store. The winner would be awarded $10,000 and their collection would be featured in their own "Shop".

The competition would be promoted through a national TV ad campaign similar to their current commercials yet tailored to engage a Canadian audience. In addition, I would reach out to local fashion reporters as well as local fashion schools. I would also post information on Target's  social media pages and create a Twitter hashtag: #designforcanada to incite participants to share their collections with Target's followers.  

Participants would need to create a full Winter 2013 collection clothing line that integrates at least one revamped traditional Canadian apparel item, i.e. moccasins, or a new Canadian item, i.e. Japanese kimono. The final participants’ collections would be judged by Canadian opinion leaders which would include Jeanne Beker, Marilyn Denis and Flare magazine’s new editor in chief, Miranda Purves. The winner and their collection would be announced on the opening day of Target's first store in Toronto. This will help attract curious consumers and local media who are eager to purchase or view their fellow Canadian's clothing line.

I am confident that by using these proposed public relations tactics to support Target as THE new upscale discounter in Canada that they would not only satisfy Canadian consumers’ stylish and unique tastes but that they would topple their competition in 2013.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Is it too late to say I'm sorry?

Timing is everything in the world of public relations.  The need to juggle multiple priorities, deadlines and budgets for a client may tempt a PR practitioner to immediately create a to-do list. This is a common mistake but it is also a grave one.

Test, test, test….Is anybody listening? 

Companies tend to think they already understand the needs of their customer but do they take the time to assess and re-assess their needs on a regular basis? If not,how can they be confident their communication tactics will be effective? 

"The goals of communication are to inform, persuade, motivate, or achieve mutual understanding," therefore a clear understanding of your publics is primordial.  Once you've determined your audience's needs, you can better craft key messages that will grab their attention and enable you to truly engage with them.

Without having done the back work, it is very unlikely that the dissemination of your key messages will go smoothly.  A major PR faux pas is being out of touch with your audience. “People want to be entertained, informed or alerted to opportunities that can fulfill their needs.”1 Today’s consumers are quite  savvy and can quickly detect a message that is not authentic.  Even worse, they may ignore it.

A botched campaign is not only detrimental to one’s career but you’ll also be left to deal with one angry client.

Netflix: How to lose and alienate customers

Netflix’s PR blunder stemmed from an overconfident CEO who stopped listening to his customers and disregarded their needs.In July 2011, Netflix announced to its customers that they would be increasing their prices in addition to separating its DVDs and unlimited streaming services.

Price hikes are not unusual but in Netflix's case, they failed to explain why they implemented the price hike ? What did this mean for their current or future customers?  What was their strategy? 

The bottom line was : Customers would now be paying more for less.

Netflix may have thought that masking the reason for their price hike through euphemisms would play in their favor but it did quite the opposite. Customers were infuriated and didn’t hesitate to share their thoughts online. Within minutes, Netflix was trending as #FAIL on Twitter and was being slammed all over the blogosphere.

Don't forget to throw in an insincere apology

Netflix chose to stay silent amidst receiving thousands of complaints. In a crisis management situation, listening and responding to your customers’ needs is key.

To make matters worse, when Netflix’s CEO, Reed Hastings, finally decided to respond, his apologize was insincere and he did not address the price hike issue. In fact, he took the opportunity to unveil Qwikster, their sister company who would manage their DVDs by mail. Customers would now be forced to log in to Qwikster and Netflix separately.  

This was not exactly a more convenient way for customers to access their services. Can anyone say #FAIL?

Let us not forget that the owner of the Twitter handle @Qwikster was an avid marijuana consumer and loved to integrate sexual innuendos into his tweets. Netflix may need a refresher course on the importance of research.

Needless to say, Qwikster was abandoned and Mr. Hastings admitted he tried to move forward too quickly. In the end, their lack of transparency and strategy resulted in the loss of “800,000 subscribers, its stock price dropped 77 percent in four months, and management's reputation was battered,” as reported by CNET.

This is a perfect example of what not to do when re-branding. It is evident that Netflix hadn’t done the back work. Ultimately, they alienated their clients and they ended up paying the price.

#be honest, be transparent and be timely.

Wilcox, Denis et al. (2013). THINK Public Relations. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education, Inc.