Can a Holiday Experiment Change the Face of a Brand?

The holidays are quickly approaching, and you know what that means – time to dust off the festive decorations, untangle those pesky twinkle lights, and pick out our cutest family photos for the yearly holiday card.  But we’re not the only ones anxiously preparing for the holidays – retailers nationwide are pulling out all the stops to make sure that we spend spend spend this season, and our good friends at Target are no exception. 

But this year, Target has decided to do it a bit differently by partnering with Story, the Manhattan-based concept store that’s the equivalent of the revolving door of retail.  Founded by Rachel Shechtman, Story completely reinvents itself every 8 weeks with a new theme, a new set of products, and a new corporate sponsor.  And when Target’s new CEO Brian Cornell visited the Manhattan-based store in the fall, he saw an opportunity to “regain merchandizing authority” by headlining Story’s yearly December concept, Home for the Holidays.  From now through the end of the month Target’s products will be featured alongside other brands to offer a curated collection of holiday gifts and decor.

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In some ways, the Home for the Holidays assortment at Story is similar to any holiday endcap display you might see at your local Target store.  It playfully mixes holiday staples like peppermint hot cocoa with new surprises like red velvet pancakes and cream cheese frosting. And it features beloved Target designers like Nate Berkus and Sonia Kashuk.  But more important to Target than just filling customers with holiday cheer, we believe Home for the Holidays serves a more functional purpose as its testing ground for new products and more relevant ways of connecting with consumers.   

Though Target has always played with balancing function and flair, as a true mass merchandiser its current product assortment mostly appeals to the masses.  With Home for the Holidays, it can experiment with more edgy, statement pieces that, if successful in the current format, could eventually make their way to the mass shelves.  And as a place that primarily serves as a one-stop-shop for any savvy mom, Target doesn’t usually go after younger generations overtly.  However, as an obvious appeal to the ever Tweeting and Instagramming Millennials, Home for the Holidays encourages shoppers to #OMT (as in, Oh My Target).  It’s a current and relevant technique to connect with the plugged in Millennial audience, and this temporary pop-up shop is the perfect venue to test it out without alienating any current Target loyalists.  As Cornell points out, “it’s a great learning lab,” for Target, and we think it was a worthwhile experiment. 

...we believe Home for the Holidays serves a more functional purpose...

It remains to be seen if and how Target will use their learnings to impact its current product assortment and marketing planning.  But what matters is that Target is testing out new strategies for connecting with its customers, a necessity in today’s ever-evolving consumer landscape.  With 2015 quickly approaching, make a New Year’s resolution to experiment a little with new merchandising or marketing strategies for your brand – you may open yourselves to new products and customers like Target has.