How Target survived the 2014 holiday season

By Allison Zullo

iCNSn7nSj14QMany companies had a rough 2014, but perhaps the brand that had it the worst was Target. Last holiday season, the superstore was hacked, and the credit cards of the nearly 40 million people who shopped at Target stores any time between November 27 and December 15 of 2013 were compromised.

Target spent most of 2014 repairing the damage the breach caused, both financially and image-wise. So when this year’s holiday season rolled around, they were armed with the strategies, tools, and supplies they needed to make the most of their most busy and lucrative season.

Here’s how Target made it happen:

It released a new smartphone app. Just in time for Black Friday, Target released an updated smartphone application that linked products to store maps. What does that mean? When you were waiting for Target to open on Black Friday (or Black Thursday?), you could use your smartphone to see where products were located in the store, and then strategically map out your shopping route to save time and avoid getting stampeded by the large crowds. The app also allows you to search for products online, view a store’s inventory, and make purchases, among other things.

Flickr_TargetBreach2It advertised with TONS of commercials. Seriously, TONS of them. You probably saw one per commercial break, especially if you were watching ABC Family’s 25 Days of Christmas. As soon as Halloween ended and November began, Target began rolling out its commercials and ads for the holiday season, starting with Black Friday sales and promotions. Even though the over-advertising was a little annoying at times, it did get consumers talking about Target’s deals and products. So, in the end, they worked.

It introduced diversity to its advertisements. The week before Christmas, Target released an ad for a children’s toy that featured a two-year-old girl with Down’s syndrome. The company was praised for this move, given that few companies have incorporated diversity like this into its ads. However, in the week after Christmas, Target was criticized when the company used a white model to promote a clothing line inspired by the new “Annie” movie, which stars a largely African-American dominated cast. Though the move pales in comparison to the 2013 year-end credit card breach, it does leave the general public with a negative connotation when they think of the Target brand.

Overall, 2014 turned out all right for Target, despite starting (and ending) on a rough note. However, the case studies were abundant, so PR students had a lot to learn from the company this year. Who knows what 2015 will have in store for Target, all other major brands and for us PR students eager to learn.

nouHV0BMAllison is a sophomore majoring in strategic communication and minoring in sports management and marketing. She is also completing a social media certificate. After graduation, her dream job is to work in sports PR. Follow her on Twitter at @allisonzullo!

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