How Target Took Big Risks and Reaped Even Bigger Rewards

As competition increases and brands vie to stay relevant, the strategic dilemma brands are often faced with is one that transcends just the marketing industry: should I take a risk or should I go with a “safer” bet? However, as the old adage goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” While sometimes a safer bet seems like the most rational approach, some instances dictate taking risks —risks that, in turn, reap rewards that would’ve never otherwise been realized, helping differentiate the brand and grow mindshare. 

Case in point: Target in their sponsorship of the Grammy’s. In 2015, armed with eight 30-second commercial spots, they wanted to pull a stunt that reinvigorated their brand and its ties to culture. With the help of creative agency Deutsch, they convinced CBS to place all of their spots in one, contiguous four-minute block. With that big commercial, though, they had to do something extraordinary.

Drawing upon their relationships with artists, Target chose to feature the band, Imagine Dragons, for their moment in the limelight. What followed was the first live advertisement, with Imagine Dragons performing during a commercial break in what appeared to be an extension of the award show itself. It wasn’t only a smashing success due to the countless media hits that were earned as a result, but it also created an entirely new genre of advertising.

Given the success of the 2015 Grammy’s commercial spot, Target and Deutsch knew that they had to go even bolder in 2016. Enter Gwen Stefani and a cast of high-profile influencers. Stefani managed to pull off the first-ever live music video — an endeavor so complex that words fall short of capturing its level of difficulty. Thanks to the incorporation of YouTube stars capturing the event and Easter eggs hidden throughout the video to stimulate social discussion, the campaign earned well over three billion impressions for Target and completely surpassed pre-order expectations for Stefani’s new album.

More important than just impressions, though, is what this means for the marketing industry as a whole. Target and all associated partners for the project undertook a huge amount of risk in both of these campaigns, but ultimately reaped major rewards by creating an experience as an advertisement. One can only guess what is to come in 2017, but rest assured that they will continue to take risks. The boldest clients make for the most innovative work.

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