Target, the retailer, seeks to focus on relevance as much as avoiding risk in formulating messages that it believes can break through with its target audience.

Todd Waterbury, chief creative officer at Target, told delegates at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2020 In-House Agency Conference that marketers are often intimidated by risk.

“But if you constantly focus on avoiding risk, that is not exactly the most fertile territory to develop new ideas,” he said. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth report: Target’s in-house agency topples traditional marketing precepts to embrace wider audiences.)

To mitigate that concern, he said, a deep understanding of a brand can help marketers determine if a bold or distinct message is pertinent to their audience.

“I like to change the conversation to degrees of relevance. When you actually ask, ‘How relevant is this?’ rather than ‘How risky is this?’, it allows you to actually focus on your audience,” Waterbury said.

More specifically, he added, it “allows you to spend the time thinking” about questions like, “Who are we designing this for? What do we know about our audience that is important to them? How does that level of focus on the audience, their lives, their experiences, and their expectations lead the way to a solution?”

Concentrating on relevance and not only risk, he continued, “is its own kind of liberation. When you’re talking about relevance, you’re really understanding potential.”

One such case is Target’s 2020 back-to-school spot, a piece of work that doesn’t minimise risk by ignoring the on-going uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, said Waterbury, the ad gains relevance “by using existing assets that we had to reimagine against the backdrop of the coronavirus”, while focusing on a “ready for school” message

“When we started this work in March and April,” Waterbury said, “we didn’t really know how the school year was going to play out. We didn’t know what that environment was going to be. But we had to commit to decisions at that time.

“When we shifted the company from risk to relevance, we decided to shift the way that we thought about returning to school,” Waterbury said.

“Understanding the needs of our guests is a really important distinction in our brand. Learning is going to look very different this year; it’s going to be a combination of different experiences and different locations.”

Sourced from WARC