Target isn't usually associated with marketing dysfunction but it could be heading that way. The company is looking for digital agencies to handle a revamp of its e-commerce platform, according to Ad Age. That's a completely normal part of business, of course, especially as the company just got a new chief marketing officer and has been re-ordering its lead ad agency assignments.
But the devil is the details.
The e-commerce review comes three years after Target severed its relationship with Amazon to go it alone in e-commerce, and nearly a year after Target screwed up the holiday shopping season with a disastrous, non-functional redesign and relaunch of its shopping site.
So the fact that Target is, again, going back into the trenches on its e-commerce platform suggests all is not well, and that it won't be fixed for a while.
Here are Target's current issues:
Target is distracted by its war against Amazon: The company in May decided to stop selling the Amazon Kindle because it was annoyed by "showrooming," the retail phenom of customers looking around a store for products they like and then using their mobile devices to find them cheaper online, often at Amazon.
Agency churn: Target fired Wieden + Kennedy in January after the company had added at least $4 billion to its sales during the period Wieden's ads ran. No one understood that move: Wieden was later named agency of the year at Cannes. (Target spends up to $1.5 billion a year on ads.)
A long, slow lead time: Target handed ad duties to 72andSunny and Deutsch LA, but a source tells us that the company has been slow to get new work out the door. Deutsch only just debuted its first work for Target after winning an assignment in late March. Target makes its ads months ahead of time and this source tells us that for much of this year Target has still been using old Wieden work.
Marketing management churn: Target tapped new agencies to replace Wieden before it hired a new chief marketing officer, Jeff Jones. That is putting the cart before the horse: Jones is now working with shops he didn't pick. Usually, companies like to have the new CMO pick his own team.
Jones came from McKinney: Jones was McKinney's president. When he joined Target, the agency celebrated the move with this press release. Apparently he left on good terms. You've got to wonder whether Durham, N.C.-based McKinney might try to leverage its relationship with Jones to join Deutsch and 72andSunny on the Target roster.
There are now two agency reviews going on at the same time: Around April, Target began a review of its media buying operations—handled by Haworth Media & Marketing—but Ad Age reports that review has gone quiet, just as the e-commerce review has sprung to life. Doing one review is hard enough; two at the same time could be distracting. (And good luck to the media buying shop that attempts to demonstrate it has more insight into Target's buying than Haworth, which has been with the company for 30 years.)
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