Target’s mascot makes a comeback

Discussion
Dec 28, 2015

For the first time in over a decade, Target has brought back "Bullseye," its mascot dog, to star in several television ads. The New York Times says his return is part of an attempt to "revive its marketing magic after years of fading cachet."

Target, founded in 1962, introduced Bullseye in 1999 with its "Sign of the Times" TV spots and billboards that reinterpreted Target’s red-and-white bull’s-eye logo in apparel and home décor themes. Along with its limited-edition designer capsules, not focusing on discounts on specific items helped differentiate Target as the playful and "cheap chic" discounter, often leading to its "Tarzhay" faux-French pronunciation.

During the recent recession, Bullseye was mostly relegated to appearing on gift cards as Target shifted away from quirky marketing and its fashion edge to focus on value and basics, including food.

Facing heightened competition in recent years from T. J. Maxx, Ross Stores, H&M and Zara, Target has increased its emphasis on style — including its recent Lilly Pulitzer collaboration — and ramped-up marketing efforts.

Bullseye Playground

Photo: Target

While Target’s holiday campaign focused heavily on its "10-Day Deal Forecast" report starring Barbie and a gingerbread man as anchors, Bullseye has been featured in commercials along with "Star Wars" storm troopers and another promoting a kid’s holiday storybook app.

Beyond commercials, the white bull terrier is making more regular appearances at events, including at the chain’s Winter Wonderland holiday pop-up for kids that was held in lower Manhattan as well as a celebrity-populated "Star Wars" event in Los Angeles.

At the store level, the bargain-bin sections at the entrance of stores are being converted to "Bullseye’s Playground," still focusing on seasonal items ranging from $1.00 to $5.00 but adding blow-up Bullseye dolls to draw attention and bring a "fun factor" to the section. Benches have also been installed in stores to enable shoppers to take pictures alongside a plastic Bullseye replica.

"We started thinking about how to bring Bullseye to more people," Jeff Jones, Target’s chief marketing officer, told the Times. "It’s a fun dog, so scrappy and fearless."

Do you see more positives than negatives in Bullseye playing a signature role in Target’s marketing and branding? What else should Target do to regain its positioning as the “cheap chic” discounter?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"It is pretty hard to go wrong with a cute dog as advertising. As far as what else Target could be doing: they need to continue with their designer collaborations but prevent them from turning into immediately out-of-stock PR disasters."
"What else should Target do to regain its positioning as the "cheap chic" discounter? How about good products at a good price that are always in stock? Target must focus on the basics of business. Too often they go to cute dogs to solve fundamental problems."

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8 Comments on "Target’s mascot makes a comeback"


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Zel Bianco
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

It is pretty hard to go wrong with a cute dog as advertising.

As far as what else Target could be doing: they need to continue with their designer collaborations but prevent them from turning into immediately out-of-stock PR disasters.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

This gives the advertising and promotion department something fun to do. I hope Target is not expecting a big lift from a cute dog.

What else should Target do to regain its positioning as the “cheap chic” discounter? How about good products at a good price that are always in stock? Target must focus on the basics of business. Too often they go to cute dogs to solve fundamental problems.

Mark Heckman
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Seemingly more than a mascot, Bullseye makes for a very recognizable icon for all the budget-minded shoppers while Target moves towards even more upscale positions in food and some of their core categories.

Despite pundits talking about an economic recovery and improving consumer environment, the reality is that disposable income for many families is down from where it was a decade ago. Retailers who need the masses to make their numbers work will be well advised to include programs and items that appeal to those that have fewer dollars to spend and more options as to where to spend them.

I think Target is on target with Bullseye.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Consumers may be looking for more from the company then the return of Bullseye. The top dogs in the company would do better sniffing out the reasons for abandoned carts both in store and online. Customer service after experience surveys could reveal some unsuspected or underestimated opportunity for work needed as well.

Lee Peterson
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

I think it’s a good idea to bring Bullseye back (isn’t he Nipper’s son?) as it’s a friendly, family-oriented, brand-right icon … but Target needs to stay ahead of the game on a lot of other fronts, like BOPIS, private label, improving grocery, showroom stores and better associate training. So, nice going, but keep it rolling!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

Hard to say: did they make a mistake in retiring him, or are they just running out of ideas? If the former, then bad for the mistake, but good to admit it and move on; if the latter….

Karen McNeely
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

It seems to me that Target has had issues with the way its business is done that a cute dog with a Bullseye on it isn’t going to fix. Frankly, I didn’t notice the dog was missing in the first place.

Brian Cluster
Guest
6 years 4 months ago

There are more positives than negatives for the re-introduction of Bullseye as long as the character is used appropriately. It is a way to engage with families and bargain shoppers in a fun way that reinforces the value pricing of the brand. Also, it is a way to stand out relative to other Mass Merchant chains which have had limited success with mascots as well as the online shopping experience.

Target can reinforce its cheap/chic positioning by working with companies in other countries on a limited basis to offer high value/unique clothing lines from other countries. Example: For black history month, they could import interesting clothing or other items from leading African based companies.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"It is pretty hard to go wrong with a cute dog as advertising. As far as what else Target could be doing: they need to continue with their designer collaborations but prevent them from turning into immediately out-of-stock PR disasters."
"What else should Target do to regain its positioning as the "cheap chic" discounter? How about good products at a good price that are always in stock? Target must focus on the basics of business. Too often they go to cute dogs to solve fundamental problems."

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