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Reputation holds steady in the mid range

BY CSA STAFF

Target was ranked 27th on the 2012 Harris Poll Reputation Quotient study behind five notable retailers and in roughly the same position with the same score as the prior year, the market research firm announced on Monday.

The study, now in its 13th year, surveys 17,500 consumers about their perceptions of the 60 most visible companies in America. Not surprisingly, a fair number of those are major national retailers. Target was ranked 27th with a score of 74, one notch higher than the previous year when it had a score of 75. Other retailers ranked ahead of the company included 8th ranked Whole Foods with score of 80, 14th ranked Home Depot and 16th ranked Kohl’s with scores of 78, 19th ranked Costco with a score of 77 and 22nd ranked Lowe’s with a score of 75.

Target did beat out such retailers as 30th ranked Macy’s with a score of 74, 34th ranked Best Buy with a score of 73, 37th ranked Walgreen with a score of 72, 39th ranked JCPenney with a score of 71 and 41st. ranked Walmart with a score of 69.

According to Harris Poll, this year’s most reputable brand, Apple, benefits greatly from its hybrid status as a technology/consumer product/retail company, and earns the highest RQ score to secure the top spot in the ranking. It displaces Google — last year’s most reputable corporation, which now ranks second with an excellent score of 82.82. The Coca-Cola Company, ranked 15th in 2011, has surged into third place, despite any meaningful change in its reputation rating. Amazon.com moves up from eighth to fourth place and perennial reputation elite, Kraft Foods, ranked fifth.

"We are seeing the emergence of a group of companies that garner reputation equity by being positively associated with multiple industries," said Robert Fronk, EVP and global corporate reputation practice lead for Harris Interactive. "Companies like Apple, Google, and Amazon.com combine innovation and leadership across multiple business areas, giving them true competitive advantage."

In terms of year-over-year change, only Toyota, General Motors, BP, and Apple enjoy significant improvement in their RQ scores, while one quarter of companies saw drastic declines. Among those with the most significant declines, five were financial institutions, including the 2010 top scorer, Berkshire Hathaway.

RQ measures six dimensions that comprise reputation and influence consumer behavior. Apple has the greatest score overall. In fact, despite today’s challenging environment, Apple recorded the highest score in the RQ’s history.

To check out the study, click here.

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And the Grammy goes to…top tracks at TGT

BY CSA STAFF

What a fortuitous promotion Target ran this week featuring a collection of nine Grammy Award nominated artists in its weekly ad. The awards program drew a record audience, and between ads during the broadcast and the artists featured in the circular Target gave a broad range of music lovers a reason to visit Target.com during the show or stop by their local store after the program.

No one in Target’s marketing department, or who was affiliated with the Grammy’s, could have known recording industry legend and troubled soul Whitney Houston would die the day before the awards show. Or that her passing and the enormous publicity it generated would propel Grammy Award viewership to a level not seen since 1984. An estimated 39 million people, 41% more than last year, tuned in to see what would happen, how Houston would be remembered and discover talented new artists.

The most notable of these was a British singer named Adele who cleaned up by winning six Grammys including the coveted album, song and record of the year awards. Adele’s album “21” was among the nine Grammy nominated titles Target featured in its ad. However, Target added value to the CD by including four exclusive tracks, which it called out in the ad.

Other artists featured by Target included Bruno Mars, Rihanna, Mumford & Sons, Paul McCartney, Nick Minaj, Kanye West and J. Cole — a little something to satisfy every musical taste.

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New era of design differentiation dawns in post Graves world

BY CSA STAFF

Even ground-breaking partnerships must come to an end, and that will be the case next month when after collaborating on roughly 2,000 items over a 13-year span, the final offering of Michael Graves branded products arrives in Target stores.

Graves and Target announced the separation in a press release that was amicable enough, but in light of recent events involving JCPenney, it seems conceivable that Graves may soon have another outlet for his housewares designs. JCPenney is on a hunt for merchandise exclusives, and when the retailer’s new CEO and former Apple and Target executive Ron Johnson hosted an event for investors last month in New York he made a point of letting everyone in attendance know that Graves was on hand for the unveiling of JCPenney’s transformation strategy.

“One of the great pleasures I’ve had in my life is to work with really great people,” Johnson told the roughly 700 people gathered for the over-the-top investor meeting. “Michael Graves is here. Michael and I got to work together at Target. Let’s hear it for Michael.”

From there, Johnson segued to discussing JCPenney’s expanding relationship with Martha Stewart and how merchandise differentiation will be the cornerstone of the company’s strategy. As for Graves, nothing official has been announced – yet – by JCPenney, but with the designer’s partnership at Target ending the handwriting would appear to be on the wall. In the meantime, the final installment of Graves designed kitchen gadgets, cleaning tools and storage solutions arrive in stores in March and will be available until year end or supplies last.

“Together we created an iconic product collection that expertly blended design with function,” said Stacia Andersen, SVP home merchandising at Target. “While this partnership is coming to end, Target remains dedicated to bringing our guests innovative design in new and meaningful ways.”

Graves debuted in Target stores to great fanfare in 1999 and for good reason. At the time, the relationship was very unconventional, but it sparked a revolution of sorts as Target would churn out exclusive design partnerships as a means of achieving differentiation and making good on the brand promise of “expect more, pay less.”

Along the way, beyond simply creating some cool new household gadgets, the partnership included several architectural projects including the Washington Monument Restoration, the Elephant Fountain at St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and the Target Wing of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

“Beginning in 1997 with the Washington Monument, Target has been a wonderful partner who has afforded me an opportunity to bring great design to America on a scale that was unimaginable before our partnership,” said Graves said. “I am very proud of the design work and its legacy, and I look forward to continued opportunities to design great products for American homes.”

Perhaps such an opportunity will emerge at JCPenney in the not too distant future.

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