Economy

Harnessing pester power: How Target is aiming its marketing at children

Cara Waters /

feature-target-baby-200Retail giant Target has unveiled its plans to market to five-year-olds in Australia, hoping to draw on the “pester power” of the tots by advertising directly to them on TV, social media and by opening up online shopping to young children.

At the Wesfarmers Strategy Briefing Day held late last month, the owner of Target unveiled its vision for a “four-year turnaround” to transform the retailer into “the leading mid-tier department store”.

Key to this turnaround is a new focus on an untapped market: children of the age of five.

Dene Rogers, the managing director of Target Australia, presented slides which focused on this age group as “at age five, children begin to become independent and exercise their own choices.”

“Target communicates to parents/grandparents via the catalogue, but has not been developing relationships directly with kids,” the presentation said.

Rogers highlighted “social media, kids TV channels and branding icons such as Disney” as representing “new relationship-building opportunities.”

SmartCompany talked to Rogers about Target’s new focus and the managing director explained Target currently offers a wide range of “unique and exclusive products” in the five-year-old age bracket that it is “not communicating effectively” at this stage.

“We have traditionally focused on promoting children’s products to their parents, but do have plans to change this by communicating with children directly utilising the marketing channels to which they are most exposed,” he says.

Target’s catalogue is mainly used by parents, so to target five-year-olds directly the retailer plans to advertise in “age appropriate magazines”, on TV channels “that parents can trust” as well as on social media.

“It’s our goal to captivate children through our marketing and excite them about our broad product range so that, ultimately, Target will become a first choice for children and parents alike,” says Rogers.

“In the interest of establishing a positive affinity with the Target brand during early development, we have to become more relevant to children.”

Rogers says Target also plans to create an online facility “where children can learn to shop online safely”.

“Given the growing preference for online shopping, this is of benefit to parents who can teach their children how to shop online safely while being supervised,” says Rogers.

The retailer does not believe five-year-old children are too young to market to.

“Children aged five and over are already being heavily marketed to and often in less positive and constructive ways,” says Rogers.

“Our marketing will reinforce the values parents wish to embed in their children, provide guidance and education, and promote products that parents will favour because they are useful, good quality and value for money.”

Target also plans to use customer data to fine hone its marketing to the five-year-old market despite Target in the United States coming under fire for marketing baby and pregnancy products to teenage girls before they had even announced to their families they were pregnant.

While Target Australia is not connected to Target in the United States, SmartCompany asked Rogers if Target Australia was planning on using similar marketing strategies.

Rogers says to remain relevant retailers need to use information from “a wide range of sources” to identify the needs of their customers.

“Using customer data is very powerful and will help us to focus on the events unfolding in our customers’ lives that mean the most to them,” Rogers says.

“At present, we are enhancing our use of non-confidential customer information through the Flybuys program as a precursor to implementing direct communications.”

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Cara Waters

Cara Waters is a former SmartCompany editor. Previously, Cara was a senior reporter for the Financial Times' website and worked for The Sunday Times in London.

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