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Target’s Music Investment Pays Off With Brand Loyalty

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Posted on 00:45, Friday, September 2

Ama - Targets unprecedented four-minute ad buy translates into big sales and big love for the retailer


When a company buys ad space during a nationally televised live event, it signs off on a series of gambles. First, theres the bet that the audience ratings will live up to the massive price of ad buy. Then theres a substantial wager that the advertising message will be appreciated by consumers, instead of ridiculedor worse, fail to make any impression. Even after both of those hurdles are cleared, theres still a risk that the marketing effort will have no direct impact on sales figures.

To promote its connection to the recording industry, big box store chain Target made a huge investment into its music advertising in 2015, when it sponsored a live performance at the Grammys by rock band Imagine Dragons. This year they decided to go even bigger by buying time to produce a four-minute live music video by pop star Gwen Stefani.

Key Takeaways

Company: Target

Campaign: A four-minute Gwen Stefani music video, aired during the live Grammy Awards

Results: 25 million live viewers, plus 35 million online views; the corresponding hashtag became the No. 1 trending hashtag in the U.S. after it aired.


Target upped the advertising ante at this years Grammy Awards by sponsoring a four-minute live music video for an independent musician featuring very little branding of its own. Its pretty risky when you think about it. You put these live commercials out into the world and its four minutes, so thats expensive commercial time, Kristi Argyilan, senior vice president of marketing at Target, said at a panel case study of the campaign at VentureBeats Marketing.FWD conference in New York City earlier this year. Were really seeing this generosity from the brand, to actually give up our time to do something like that, [creates] huge spikes in sentiment [and] the intent to shop.    

Target has a well-honed commitment to musicians, offering more than 100 exclusive album releases a year. These are the same albums made by popular recordings artists like Adele and Taylor Swift, but with bonus tracks only available through Target.

Music has and will continue to be a really integral part of Targets DNA, and what we really strive for, or what the hook of our campaigns is, is the hashtag #moremusic, says Lee Henderson, a public relations manager for Target.

By all accounts, the 2015 advertisement was a success, but there were still many areas for improvement. The decision was made to pursue a music video instead of a live show in hopes that the performance would have a replay effect. As we thought about the success of 2015 with Imagine Dragons and looked into 2016, we really tried to find a way to extend the conversation into buzz moments, Henderson says.

Last year, Targets sponsored music was withheld from the public as a surprise and announced only a couple days before the performance. This time around, the social media campaign started well in advance. The big difference is the campaign really hinged around social. We definitely know that our guests are engaging in social every day. Its really a part of their lives and for Target its really a part of how we bring our brand to life, Henderson says.

The decision to tap Gwen Stefani for a music video was made partly because of her social following.

When we went to do this effort with Gwen this year for the Grammys, the team automatically said, Were going to get more than we got last year, Argyilan said. Imagine Dragons doesnt  have the same social channels that Gwen does. Looking at an artist or looking at any partner and understanding the power of their social following really makes a huge difference.

Other social influencers were added to the cast of the video, including American Idol contestant Todrick Hall and YouTube star Meg DeAngelis. Both were able to post behind-the-scenes content to their own accounts before, during and after the performance.

The video itself featured courted buzz by inserting references to tabloid stories about Stefanis personal life, such as naming the barroom on the set Blakes, alluding to Stefanis romance with her costar on The Voice, Blake Shelton.  

Target only included its own branding in very subdued ways. A small bulls-eye logo next to the hashtag #moremusic was displayed at the bottom right of the screen throughout the video. At one point, Stefani passes through a tunnel with red and white arches indicative of the Target symbol, and the final shot is an overhead of Stefani standing in the middle a red circle stage.


According to Nielsen, 25 million people watched the 2016 Grammys on Feb. 25. Since then, Henderson says, the performance has been viewed an additional 35 million times online. The night it aired, Targets hashtag, #moremusic, was the top trending hashtag in the United States, and the second-most popular globally.

While Henderson says the company wont discuss specific production costs or album sales, a Billboard article from 2015 points out that the cost to purchase time during the Grammys probably totaled $8 million alone.

That investment was well worth it, according to Marshall Cohen, chief industry analyst for the market information and advisory services firm The NGP Group.

When you partner with someone who creates that connection, its worth millions of dollars in todays economy. Its almost like rewarding the customers and the guests for their brand loyalty. What that does is it creates a whole other level of loyalty, recognition, word-of-mouth in a very competitive arena, Cohen says.

According to data compiled by NPDs BrandLink service, which identifies the brand preferences of fans to help marketers find which celebrities brands users are most likely to engage, 38% of Stefanis fan base is between the ages of 36 and 50, versus only 24% of the population at large, and 74% percent of her fans are female. Both numbers dovetail nicely with the segment Target is targeting. Additionally, while Stefani-lovers are no more or less likely to shop at department stores in general than the average U.S. consumer, they are much more likely to buy from Target when they do shop. They also tend to shop at clothing stores, cosmetics stores and shoe stores more than the average consumer.

Were at a time now where everybody is competing with the same products at different prices, and heres their ability to take that and make it a non-issue. Now price goes out the door, Cohen says.

And the Tar-jay factor, making it cool to shop there and cool to wear their productthats  what this does. It elevates the level of engagement.

Argyilan did reveal at Marketing.FWD that 25% of the preorder sales goal was hit within three hours of the music video airing. A week later, that number had grown to 75%. And like Cohen, she believes the most lasting impact of the commercial is the emotional connection it can inspire in consumers.

 The amount of emotional response we get to that is incredibly valuable to us, she said. As marketers, we always talk about wanting to be loved. What does that mean from a sales perspective? What does that get us? Thats one of our big measurement agenda pieces for 2016.

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