A Transparent Tour of Target
Like most Americans, I love Target. They’re easily my most trusted department store brand and we have a long history together.
As a teenager growing up in small town Ohio, my friends and I would go to the Target nearby just to wander around and look at all of the stuff and sit on the patio furniture. It was kind of like going to the mall for us, which early on made me associate Target with convenience, one of their strongest values (Maybe someday I’ll tattoo my body with all of my favorite brand logos, and when I do, you can count on the Target bullseye being close to my heart).
But behind their strategy to offer convenience is the whole idea to make a sale. You have to remember that they’re in the business to sell. With that, presentation is tantamount to the consumer having the experience they want you to have (which is to browse, shop, and buy as much as possible).
In order to shed some transparency, I decided to evaluate Target itself as the product and went to the nearest Target in my neighborhood for an afternoon of browsing.
When you first enter a Target, regardless of location, the first sections presented to you are strategic. It’s presented logically, of course, but it’s also like a carefully constructed labyrinth to keep you browsing as long as possible.
When you’re looking for the strategy, it’s easy to notice the manipulations and questions come to mind:
- Why is the dollar bin always the first thing by the door?
- Why do you pass through the kitchen appliances before you reach the grocery aisles?
- Why are the children’s clothes always located by the women’s clothes?
- Why are the women’s clothes always located near the front and the men’s clothes near the back?
- Why are the electronics always by the men’s section?
- Why are the toys always near electronics and sporting equipment?
- Why shouldn’t I buy all these great, comfortable Merona brand clothes?
The answers are:
- They want you to associate Target with great value right away.
- They’re hoping you see a new kitchen gadget that would look good in your home and make a cooking process easier and factor that into your meal plans.
- Women tend to be the ones who buy children clothes.
- Men don’t buy clothing as much as women, and their clothing is also usually more static and less seasonally exciting.
- Men shop for electronics more frequently than women.
- Toys and video games are in different categories but they’re closely linked. Toys and sporting equipment are in different categories but they’re closely linked.
- You should definitely buy all those great, comfortable Merona brand clothes — they’re a Target exclusive brand, baby.
As I continue wandering, I also become more aware of the lifestyle and mood models displayed on the giant posters and signs around the store. Some of them are strange.
Take this party dog for example.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen a living creature have as much fun as that dog is having in that picture. This, appropriately, is from above the party supplies section, located near the greeting cards in the front of the store. It’s not near the pet food section, which is toward the back. Why am I seeing this dog? I suppose that in addition to giving me the information that this is the party supply section (evidenced by the party dog’s party hat), it is also to remind me that I’m basically having the time of my life when I shop at Target.
Further into the store, I pass by this way-too-cool kid.
Dude. Take it down a notch, will you? Tipping those shades like that, with that smirk and that hair? That kind of aggressive come-hither look — it’s like you’re trying to do a Justin Bieber impression on a visit to an all-girls’ school talent show. This is a family store, dawg. You don’t need to give it that much oomph. Besides, you’re making the kid in the sign behind you jealous.
Finally, I make it to my final browsing point, which is the Electronics section because I am a man above all else and I embody my stereotypes whenever I can. There, I am rewarded with 11 of my favorite movies conveniently spread over only 4 discs. What value!
Although I don’t make any purchases this time, I know I’ll be back again soon. As always, I had the time of my life wandering around Target, just like that party dog.
Grant Pardee is a comedian originally from Ohio living in Los Angeles. He has performed at Bridgetown and SF Sketchfest, the Improv, Upright Citizens Brigade, and many other places, too. He contributes articles to VICE, and in 2013 the webseries he created, wrote and produced “Happy Place” was a finalist for the Comedy Central Short Pilot Competition at the New York Television Festival. Follow him on twitter @grantpa