In early January, shapingyouth.org, a blog on marketing to children, complained to mass retailer Target about a new ad campaign that depicted a woman positioned on a target pattern with the bull’s-eye seemingly targeting her crotch.
What gives, Target? A subliminal sexual message? A lapse into bad taste? Publicity through controversy? Or, did their art director, so wrapped up in the "snow angel" theme, miss the obvious innuendo?
Mistakes happen, but Target’s response to the criticism was a showstopper that enraged the blogosphere.
In an e-mail response published in the News York Times, Target replied, “Unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with nontraditional media outlets.”
“This practice,” the public relations person added, “is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest,” as Target refers to its shoppers.
The Times covered the response: “Word of the exchange quickly spread and the blogosphere did not appreciate the slight. ‘Target doesn’t participate in new media channels?’ asked the Web site for the Word of Mouth Marketing Association. Target ‘dismisses bloggers’ commented the blog for Parents for Ethical Marketing. ‘Ahem! So bloggers don’t count!’ Ms. Jussel chimed in on ShapingYouth."
How long the issue will rage in the blogosphere is hard to say. But a lot of people who held a fine opinion of Target think less so because Target did not offer a simple response to a blogger.
On your next call, if you have a blog product to sell: remind your client that while blogs often deliver small numbers, the readers can be extremely influential and able to quickly muster armies of like minded individuals that can do great harm. As Target may now be learning, ignore blogs at your peril.