Is Target Canada an empty brand?

Much has been made of Target’s poor entry into the Canadian market in 2013. Some have blamed insufficient advertising in the lead up to the launch, its unimpressive product pricing, and the in-store experience. However, tSG sees these as symptomatic of a much greater fault: empty branding.

Advertising in advance of the launch, and subsequent to it, positioned Target Canada as a new member of the community. Their ‘Can’t Wait to Meet You, Neighbour’ campaign featured Bullseye, the bull terrier, complete with a Target logo painted over his eye, motorcycling across Canada.

But Target is recognised in Canada as an American brand. It is known in Canada for its very competitive US pricing. And Target Canada is using the US parent’s brand tag as its own: “Expect more. Pay less.” Target Canada seemed to be setting expectations for an American-style shopping experience, that is to say, very low prices.

Yet, the company attempted to brand itself as a ‘Canadian’ company, similar to the identity owned by The Bay. For example, Target had Roots Canada create an exclusive line of (clumsily named) Beaver Canoe products. Confusingly, Target Canada presented their ‘Canadian’ products on the same shelves as products sporting distinctly US brands.

tSG believes Target failed to meet Canadian consumers’ expectations. Rather than greet consumers with the super-competitive prices it branding promised, Target Canada conspired to contrive an identity that is not real. Consumers know Target is not Canadian. Canadian consumers did not expect (nor want) Target to provide a Canadian experience; they expected (wanted) an American experience. In other words, Target failed to recognise that Canadian consumers had a pre-existing awareness of Target’s brand promise. When Target Canada not only failed to deliver on that brand promise, but, much worse, attempted to construct something that smelled false, they ended up with an empty brand.  The result: consumers have rejected the retailer.