Some time ago, we did a study on the various retailers, exposing the issues they were facing and what they could do to be more relevant again.

The conclusion was that, among retailers that are basically alike and having trouble finding importance again, was that each must find something to be known for.

This was especially true of the big boxes, such as Target. That retail giant is an interesting case because it has become the fast follower behind leader Walmart.


What will Target be known for?

If Walmart is about low prices, then it is too. Once Walmart introduced groceries into its stores, so did Target.

All of that is a losing game because, in the absence of differentiation, the market leader always becomes the default choice. (And, therefore, the default choice of suppliers as well.)

Target is now attempting something new to differentiate it from the competition. It announced plans to invest more than $2 billion into a new initiative that focuses on technology, babies and wellness.

For example, it will be rolling out Pillowfort, a new kids brand for home goods, and Cat & Jack, a children’s apparel line, while making its loyalty program entirely mobile.

What will this new initiative do for the Target brand?

The idea is an intriguing one, especially with the retailer investing so largely into it. For once, it is thinking ahead instead of just following Walmart.

But there are pratfalls Target could still make. Will the brand become known for this new emphasis? Or is it simply an add-on that will not be embedded into its brand? If it’s the latter, it’s a stopgap move at best.

The marketplace in this space is very crowded, with retailers such as Babies R Us and others actually known for this kind of emphasis. It is embedded into their brands. How is Target going to compete with a brand that is much more generic than that?

The chain says it will also focus on style, but I’ve always found that to be an overused word by all retailers because it’s such a vague term. What kind of style? A style of what?

My guess is that this initiative will become another add-on for Target without being a part of its brand. I’m not suggesting that babies are what Target becomes only known for. The brand must play on an emotional trigger that gives the retailer permission to be a leader in this segment while allowing it to sell other things.

That’s what retailers are really missing. What are the emotional triggers?

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