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January 17, 2008

Target Insults Bloggers, Shoots Self In Foot. Again.

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Target may want to give Andy Beal a call because they need some major online reputation management advice. A double dose of blatant social media no-no’s has once again proven that Target knows virtually nothing about the online world. You would think they would have immersed themselves in how things are done on the Internet after all their publicized Internet missteps over the past year. However, seems not.

Target’s back facing the ire of bloggers after they released an arguably offensive ad campaign and then refused to speak to Shaping Youth blogger Amy Jussel when she inquired about it. Target told Amy they couldn’t speak with her because the fine establishment they’re running "does not participate with non-traditional media outlets". Target says the practice is in place "to allow [them] to focus on publications that reach [their] core guests".

Oh, this isn’t going to end well.

And which publications would those be, exactly? Does Target really think their customers don’t use blogs or use search engines to find information about them? And wouldn’t responding to someone who has a close enough relationship with your brand to email you about something they found offensive qualify as reaching their core guest? You would think so, which is why I am very confused by their dumbness. Instead of addressing the totally valid complaint of one blogger, they decided to piss her off. They practically put the telephone in her hand and told her to call all her friends and alert the “real” media outlets that Target is clueless.

Based on Target’s claim that their core audience doesn’t use blogs, I decided to do some quick research. I headed over to Google Blog Search to see how many people were, in fact, talking about Target. The queries [target store] and [shop at target] had more than 300,000 results, while [experience at target] had almost 530,000. I personally liked the 10 results that came up for ["don't shop at target"] and the 7 that came up for ["bad experience at target"].

Hey, Target, guess what? Your audience not only reads blogs, they’re using them to share their experiences with you. And when you ignore them, they write bad things. And then people find them, especially when they end up on Consumerist, which is how I found out about Amy’s situation. Had they simply given Amy the attention she deserves, I probably wouldn’t even have heard about their flub. Or maybe this would be an entry about an organization that finally woke up to social media and learned how to participate.

As I mentioned above, it’s really surprising to see Target continually making the same mistakes. They got in trouble when their Web site wasn’t accessible and then got even more bad press when they began paying kids to talk about their brand on Facebook and "keep it like a secret". Oh, and do you know how everyone found out about that "keep it like a secret" story? From blogs. So why does Target think they don’t need to address these people?

I’m not sure but you should make sure that you, unlike Target, are not clueless about social media and the importance of engaging and listening to your audience. Target actually seems to get the whole idea of trying to "engage" people, they just don’t understand how to do it or that engagement has to be genuine. You can’t pay people to talk about you (and then have them not disclose that fact) and call it community involvement. That’s not social media; that’s deception.

Whether you’re a big brand, a small brand or fall somewhere in the middle, don’t for a second think that your customers aren’t out there investigating you, having a conversation about what you’re doing, and using blogs to spread information. It’s probably also not a good idea to think that you’re above the blogosphere simply because you have some street cred. Especially after we keep reading stats about how journalists get their story ideas and conduct research through blogs.

But Target is right about one thing. Bloggers are non-traditional media. They’re non-traditional in the fact that unlike a newspaper or a magazine, blogs aren’t independent entities only interested in themselves. They’re all connected. When you tell one blogger she’s not important enough for your time, you’re essentially telling the whole blogosphere the same thing. And that’s not good for anyone’s brand reputation.

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5 responses to “Target Insults Bloggers, Shoots Self In Foot. Again.”

  1. Todd Mintz writes:

    Funny, they have a Facebook Group with 18K members (including me). So, perhaps some folks (though not all) in the company get the digital age.

  2. Shaping Youth writes:

    You’re absolutely right. My whole purpose in calling Target in the first place was to get their POV/explanation/motivation of why the heck they’d risk alienating CORE customers to run an ad that could be misconstrued.
    Their response (or lack thereof) became the bigger story, derailing the objectification conversation I’d started initially on a much more global basis which sadly diluted into a ‘dumbed down’ dialog of wacky UGC opinion polling on (in)offensiveness.
    The ‘snowangel or spreadeagle you decide’ kind of minutiae is something I’d expect from a Facebook-app, not an erudite group of bloggers, especially on the Consumerist!
    Strangely enough, I sent the Consumerist a comment but it never posted, explaining how it’s all been blown out of context with misinformation by focusing on the one ad. (If they’d have read further on Shaping Youth, they’d see we were blogging about the ONGOING impact of crass objectification in pop culture as it relates to the APA research on adolescents.
    Trivializing the brouhaha into being about the one ‘snowangel ad’ is misguided, but then, so is Target’s POV that ‘non-traditional media’ doesn’t count.
    Ahem. This mama, blogger, nonprofit founder, ad industry veteran/journalist gal happens to live down the street from Target and was SUCH a CORE customer that we gave out ‘$5 Target gift cards’ instead of goodie bags at my 12-year old’s b-day beach bash!
    I WANTED to give them the benefit of the doubt, and purposely did NOT approach media outlets even though I contemplated it as you can see on our blog. Alas, Target was sadly off the mark this round.
    Thanks for your incisive post…

  3. Lily writes:

    The guys truly don’t have a clue of what is going online, or they are pretty much suicidal. I would have laughed a lot if it was only Target, there are so many of the kind out there, and they are all heading to the title A Souvenir of the 20th Century …

  4. Tyler Weaver writes:

    And here I thought one of Target’s core markets was bloggers (and readers)…

  5. Ryan writes:

    It makes me laugh that some companies are still stuck in 1995 mode.

    Plus, Target honestly sucks anyway – I don’t think I’ve shopped there for 15 years, let alone the thought of going there now.



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