This was a sad day. One of my favorite stores let me down. Target, how could you do this?
My colleague at Bridgewater State posted this photo on his Facebook expressing his disappointment at this marketing approach and I took the liberty of sharing it with the student affairs community on Twitter.
The result was a flurry of “Retweeting” and conversation and many people wondering if this was a one-time mistake by a manager in a location that shall remain anonymous in Millbury, MA or a company approved display approach for their “off to college” season.
Needless to say, this is a huge disappointment to see a major retailer advocating for binge drinking and targeting (pun intended) families of incoming students in a store’s attempt to be “fun.” A large retailer like Target is in an outstanding position to support student success on college campuses and I would hope we would see support for the goals of higher education instead of this slap in the face.
I really hope that incoming students and their families out there who are going back to school shopping are savvy enough to realize that the list of “campus essentials” need not include ping pong balls, solo cups, and a folding table. If you don’t believe me, please consult your campus’ student handbook to find out what potential student conduct sanctions we may need to discuss.
One additional interesting piece of this whole dialogue has been the lack of response from Target to what I believe was a significant level of conversation over the course of a day. I posted this picture in a tweet at 11:15 a.m. EST and the message was mentioned or retweeted more than 65 times over the course of the day in my Twitter feed alone.
The Target corporation has 29,213 followers so I am quite sure they have a long column of @ Mentions. However, 65 mentions on the same topic should probably be worth noticing, even if over the weekend. This is a great example of why any organization should be monitoring their online brand. One response to my tweet at some point today may have helped to quell some of the dissatisfaction.
On another note, another colleague emailed Target with a complaint about this display and in a matter of hours received an email reply that included the following quote:
“We try to represent our merchandise in a manner reflecting our company philosophy and image as a fun, family-oriented store, while serving many guests with diverse tastes and interests. Of course your thoughts and comments are a big help to us, and I’ll be sure to let our Advertising executives know what you’ve had to say.”
Oh, Target. I’ll refrain from writing about your claim of “family-oriented” while we are talking about what is clearly a beer pong display. Instead, I will ask you to learn a little more about what it takes for students to be successful in college. We need you to play a supporting role in helping young people to get the best possible messages about what it takes to succeed in college.
The student affairs community can play a great role in educating retailers about ways they can help us to promote positive messages about college student success. How do you think we can best share our expertise?