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Target: A Call To Service

Very rarely do brands get it right when inserting themselves into historic moments in time.  Brand-building generally only works around events where advertising is expected and even then it is, at best, tolerated as part of the environment.

Advertisers do pretty well with sports. In fact advertising has been woven into and is actually a part of the entertainment experience now.   But events marking history, events that speak to the core of our humanity rarely provide solid platforms to convincingly reach out to audiences and failed attempts often do more damage than good.  However, Target’s simple message to promote volunteering in honor of Martin Luther King Day not only managed to be classy, but it ingeniously captured the spirit of the times.

It is tradition for Presidents to commit to their service to the nation with a call for communities to serve (Clinton started AmeriCorps in 1993), but with a vulnerable nation glued to the actions of our first black President, Target tapped into a collective psyche poised to receive the President-elect’s message that we all must do our part.   They managed to echo and support the campaign of “Yes we can” with subtlety and then demonstrated sincerity by providing the online viewer a click-through the ad to VolunteerMatch – a web site that connects volunteers to projects and organizations in need of help.

Target also pulled off a huge placement coup.   Having made her first presidential endorsement ever, Oprah conducted her pre-inauguration day show in D.C.  Of course this included the debut of an exclusive made-for-the day song performed by celebrities Will.I.Am, Bono, Faith Hill, Seal and Mary J. Blige – a free copy of which was made available for the first 24-hours only on the Oprah Winfrey Show web site.   Guess where Target’s ad was placed front and center?

This kind of leadership cannot be pulled off by just any brand.   Target has a history of supporting the communities in which they do business.  Starting years ago with its school receipts program, Target has always chosen to support its shoppers and their families by looking at core community values.  Over the years they have supported education, arts and parks efforts, to name a few.   This past Monday, Target managed to leverage its brand assets, the progressive values of its mass customer base and the sweeping sentiment of a population ready for a new type of leadership into a perfect storm of brand-building.

This is brand influence at its best.

image source: The Oprah Winfrey Show web site, MLK Day – January 19, 2009

Written by Kelli Peterson

Kelli Peterson is a brand and communications strategist with 20 years of professional experience in the corporate and non-profit world. Kelli is the founder of The Change Project, a collaborative consultancy focused on creating value and positive social impact through the power of brand. Kelli is a sometimes blogger, an avid world traveler and passionate about creating change.

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