Target Corporation leads a double life.  The Company is both a discount merchandiser providing high quality merchandise to take its family-oriented customers through life’s milestones (i.e. marriages, new births, education, home products); and, Target is a design store.  Armed with market research identifying its core customer base as mothers with a majority of the household purchasing power, Target approached Ruder Finn with the question of how the Company could further serve this guest, and expand its demographic as Target planned to bolster its online presence. 
Ruder Finn proposed that in order for Target to reach its key guest – mothers – the Company needed to reinforce via a multiple-channel consumer outreach campaign, that Target has not only made everyday family activities – like housecleaning and carpooling – easier, but also more stylish.  Recognizing that Target, as a lifestyle brand, is all in the experience, Ruder Finn sought to translate the ‘experience’ online via a campaign that would marry the planned relaunch of the existing site with a media and consumer program focused on the product offerings that made mothering and family life easier and, most important, stylish. 
In addition to reaching consumers for the late October 2000 launch date, Ruder Finn was responsible for generating interest among technology and business media, as well as the analyst community.  The goal was to position the e-commerce site as consumer-friendly and a viable business channel in anticipation of an online Holiday Season that would be under close scrutiny by consumers and Wall Street alike.
Overview and Challenges
Target believed that its e-commerce strategy should be founded on the success of its “brick and mortar” business. had challenges to overcome, including: 
  • The team had been comprised of executives from the traditional ‘offline’ retail division
  • Among the ‘big three’ discount retailers – Wal-Mart, Kmart and Target – Target was the last to sell online
  • Only 15,000 products would be sold online, in comparison to more than 500,000 by its competitors
  • The company did not promote or offer any free popular consumer incentive applications
Ruder Finn leveraged the executives’ history in merchandising expertise and product showcasing with a dedicated offline user-base as well as its ownership of a distribution center, to create a PR program that differentiated, and would ultimately, prove to be the winning strategy for attracting consumers online.
Research and Planning
  • Leveraged Target’s consumer market research identifying the traditional Target Store guest
  • Researched reports from industry analysts regarding Holiday consumer expectations for 2000 in order to define achievable goals for the season
  • Used Nielsen NetRatings to obtain documented traffic, page views and rankings in order to support the strategy of targeting mothers as the primary and most likely user of
Campaign Objectives
  • Build incremental sales to Target brand, online and offline
  • Elevate’s presence in the media and among the target consumer, women and especially, mothers
  • Elevate’s presence in the industry as a player in the e-tailing space
  • Leverage Target Corporation's brand to increase awareness of online presence
  • Position key executives as industry leaders
  • Utilize media and analyst predictions surrounding Holiday 2000 to benchmark success of the online store
  • Communicate to the premier Target consumer – mothers – by addressing issues relevant to their lives
Ruder Finn developed a comprehensive public relations strategy beginning in the summer of 2000 that would put on the technology radar screen six months before the Holiday season, and continue a stream of news leading up to the relaunch of in late October.  It would begin with the business and technology media and build up steam, positioning as a ‘dark horse’ entrant in the online Holiday race.  The consumer element of the program reached out to mothers with the message,  ‘save time to spend time’ (with the family).
Build Up Phase
Sought out a reporter at a key business publication in June to build awareness and generate buzz about Target’s consistent image.
Followed up with a consistent stream of news regarding a co-branded ISP partnership with ATP technology platform; a co-branded Web site with E*Trade; and finally, the relaunch and ‘new look’ of the site. 
Continued to pitch to trade and consumer press as a family –friendly, trusted option for the traditional Target guest– both nationally and locally.  
The Relaunch Phase
With an expected launch date of late October and no real internal news to announce in early fall, unexpectedly closed its Web site to consumers which generated a good amount of national press.  Seizing upon the opportunity to possibly launch before, Ruder Finn began an aggressive ‘visionary’ campaign scheduling face-to-face meetings between senior executives and industry analysts and top-tier media in Boston and New York. reinforced both the business and consumer message that is a site that wouldn’t be over-ambitious, like so many other e-tailers, but rather easy and time-saving for the busy mom.
Additionally, Ruder Finn encouraged to speed up the launch in order to meet the October 26 launch date.  When did launch a week after’s launch,’s new look, merchandising and distribution strategies stole’s initial ‘lead’ online.
Issues Campaign
Since no must-have, hot toy had emerged by October, Ruder Finn recommended identifying an expert not just in toys, but parenting and play, in order to reach its key target audience: mothers.
Ruder Finn researched and found an expert in ‘play’ and created a Satellite Media Tour campaign that spoke to time-starved moms, relating how shopping online and choosing the right toy can free up time and inspire family play.  The interview was picked up by 14 local morning television shows, five in the top 25 markets.’s toy and play expert served as the final donor during the Today Show’s annual Holiday Toy Drive, serving as a memorable participant and family advocate in the morning show’s final show before Christmas.
Guerilla Campaign
Target’s brand recognition in Manhattan, due in part to a great deal of advertising and no physical presence, is primarily by its logo – the bullseye.  Leveraging the brand’s design awareness, Ruder Finn sought to reinforce the ‘family’ piece by placing the recognizable Target logo at Holiday family events and shopping destinations around Manhattan.
At designated sites around the city, samplers distributed free coffee in branded cups, branded Santa hats and mouse pads to consumers along with free shipping.
Hosted free outdoor caroling events, a performance by the Boys Choir of Harlem and the Rockettes.
The entire retail industry – both online and offline – had a number of obstacles to overcome during Holiday 2000.  Going into the Holiday season, pure-play and bricks-and-mortar retail companies were under enormous pressure to exceed sales goals due to slow sales throughout the year.  Sales concerns were compounded in early November when the Presidential election was in a stalemate and in a state of flux until mid-December, further curtailing sales.  Rising consumer concerns about the economy and the media’s intensive coverage of the election resulted in a difficult season for media and consumers alike.  However, despite the hurdles,’s traffic increased by 200% and its site, offerings and merchandising strategy continued to be topical news. Specifically, Ruder Finn achieved:
  • Nearly 106 million print impressions, including print and online.
  • Seventeen broadcast hits in major markets including ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, as well as The Today Show.
  • Vision Tour with Jerry Storch, vice-chairman of Target Corporation visiting top industry analyst and top retail editors which resulted in feature stories and multiple analyst endorsements in top U.S. newspapers and magazines, including the Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The New York Post and USA Today Weekend.  The AP story ran in more than thirty-five markets. 
  • Traffic increase of 200% since the Holiday season in 1999; ranked in the top 25 of the most-visited Web sites during the Holiday season by Nielsen NetRatings.
  • Target Corporation named Marketer of the Year 2000 by Advertising Age for savvy online and retail store marketing strategy.