You would think that in 2008, it would be hard for a mainstream retail outlet to ignore the potential impact of blogs. You would think that, but you would be wrong. I caught Jim Tobin's tweet about Target's decision not to interact with "non-traditional media" and found myself just shaking my head at the news.

Warner Todd Hudson shares the email written to Amy Jussel of the organization Shaping Youth after she emailed Target with concerns over a new ad they've been running. The response is astonishing, considering it's 2008.

Good Morning Amy,

Thank you for contacting Target; unfortunately we are unable to respond to your inquiry because Target does not participate with non-traditional media outlets. This practice is in place to allow us to focus on publications that reach our core guest.

Once again thank you for your interest, and have a nice day.

Wow. So apparently, people who use that crazy thing called "The Internet" are not Target's core guest. (Which makes me wonder who is...) I guess they have no interest in those crazy Internet types who spent roughly $28 billion online last Christmas. I also guess they think the 17 million shoppers who visited the week after Thanksgiving never visit other sites or participate in online conversations.

I mean honestly? If they don't want to talk to bloggers because they don't understand how to do it, that's fine. But to throw out a line implying Target's "core guest" isn't found on those types of sites either shows an astonishing amount of cluelessness or absolute denial. (ETA: Ed Kohler tries to make things a little clearer for Target in his posting on the issue.)

On the other hand, this type of response from big corporations serves as yet another reminder of how essential good online marketing and proper use of social media is to small businesses. Companies like have won big by embracing online users.

So yet again, let me remind you of the need set up news alerts for your name, your business name and any key products you sell. Let me also remind you of the need to carefully review and respond to the emails that come in from your visitors, customers and readers. Gone are the days when you can assume a single person can't make a dent in your business. The Internet has brought main street style business practices back into vogue.

Treat people right, address their concerns and let them have a voice. Your online reputation will thank you for it.

January 17, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.


wow. Insightful, spot on, and helpful to newbies in the NPTech world like me. The great thing about being the 'target' of all this unwanted media hype is that I'm learning about SEO tactics & Web firepower far beyond my acumen for same. Great post.

As time goes on, and after reading Sarah Wurrey's comments on the matter, and after reading Shel Holtz's comments on the whole Ford Mustang thingie, I'm wondering about the chances that this was just a single clueless individual, rather than an entire corporation.

And I realize that Target chose not to take the opportunity to respond to Parents for Ethical Marketing, but perhaps we should see if Target changes its mind.

It would not take a great deal of criticism on this issue for Target or any other major retailer to see the error of their ways.

Here's the ridiculous part: Target DID respond to her. And rather than using that email to say "we don't respond," why not use it to actually address the issue?

If you're going to write the email anyway, at least make it worthwhile. Not only is this bad marketing, it's just bad logic.

Very interesting insight, Jennifer.

Perhaps its possible that Target has done its research into its target customer market segments and has made a sound business decision for its communication channels?

Not to be an apologist for Target, but they are a discount retailer that has competed well against Wal-Mart (unlike, say, KMart), and they are well-regarded in both the retail space and business in general.

I understand your point, I agree that the online world is growing by leaps and bounds, and that companies need to figure out how to effectively integrate the online communications channel into their operations. But I also believe that certain companies can logically decide that the online world is not where their resources are best spent to return shareholder value.

I prefer what Target has done as opposed to, say, Best Buy and Home Depot, which have absolutely terrible online customer experiences (try cancelling an order from either one or even getting an order status... ouch).


Anything is possible, but what's really going on here is the type of corporate arrogance that leads big companies down the path of very unhappy customers.

We live in a different world now than we did even ten years ago. If you made someone upset a decade ago, they might tell their friends and word might spread slowly, but unless it hit the national media, you were pretty "safe." These days, a single blog post by a single individual can launch a firestorm of negative press.

I'm not saying companies should bow down to bloggers, but to flat out say you won't engage with anything other than mainstream media these days is just moronic. If you look at Technorati, you'll find that a large portion of the most popular sites on the web are now blogs. In fact, many blogs enjoy higher traffic levels than popular newspapers.

Companies have got to start learning to play in this new arena. The ones that bury their heads in the sand are going to find themselves standing alone on the beach when they finally dig themselves up.

Jennifer, oh I so agree with your comments here. I love Target. I mean I LOVE Target. But as an online marketer, they tick me off. Their PPC is terrible -- the ads are never focused on the right product (they overuse the {keyword} function in Google) and their landing pages never land you on the right product. And if wasting tons of money on bad PPC advertising weren't enough, they're e-commerce is atrocious too. You can't ship an item to the store to save on shipping AND you can't check on inventory for an individual product at your local store. To top it off, their shipping fees are outrageous.

It's clear that Target isn't as focused with online media (one way or another) as it should be. I wish I could boycott them, but dang I just love their store too much. Just seems like a lot of wasted opportunity for a company that could do GREAT things online.

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