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Target CMO Jeff Jones spoke with faculty and students May 8 on connecting with customers.

Jeff Jones

Target CMO on transforming culture to accelerate growth

CMO Jeff Jones plans the Target of tomorrow

By Heather Blaha

5/14/2015 - At the heart of Target’s current transformation are the shifting needs and shopping habits of the Target guest – a shopper that is more millennial, urban, ethnic and part of a truly modern family, according to Jeff Jones, the company’s chief marketing officer.

“We have to become a modern company,” Jones said to a packed room of students and faculty May 8, “and the way we talk about that internally is that everything is on the table.”

Acknowledging the company’s past successes as well as challenges, Jones outlined Target’s current transformation during a recent visit to Evanston as part of the Kellogg Markets & Customers Initiative’s Executive in Residence Program. In partnership with the Center for Market Leadership, the program hosted Jones for a day spent with Kellogg faculty and students.

Gregory Carpenter, the James Farley/Booz Allen Hamilton Professor of Marketing Strategy and director of the center, welcomed the value and insight Jones brought to the Kellogg community.

"By bringing C-suite industry leaders to Kellogg through the Executive in Residence program, students and faculty engage in dialogues that deepen our connection with practice. We learn what some of the best companies are doing,” he said. “Jeff's insights generated a great deal of discussion about how the changing role of the CMO is transforming organizational culture to respond to changing consumers and accelerate growth."

The new Target shopper

During his visit, Jones explained why and how Target – a $73 billion company – was evolving through technology and services while always keeping the guest its top priority.

Jones broke down what drives Target shoppers: They love to shop, are digitally connected — 75% of guests begin their shopping experience on a mobile device — and demand great value. He calls their target audience “demanding enthusiasts” and believes that although they are served well, Target can make improvements to better meet their needs.

To do this, Jones and his team are finding new ways to connect shoppers with the Target brand with attributes including inspiration, confidence, ease and belonging, effectively making it their guests’ brand.

“The number of people who say to us, ‘I love Target. It’s my Target.’ is incredible and really meaningful. We see 35,000 times a day people talking positively about Target on social platforms,” Jones said.

Transparency and flexibility

Some priorities for transformation include fostering a culture of transparency with a focus on open communication, as well as operational approaches such as enabling on-demand shopping and the introduction of Hatch, a program to collect team members’ ideas for improving the guest experience (including a simple user-centered design for storing a smart phone in the shopping cart). This will enable the flexibility, convenience and ease of engaging with Target that customers seek and like they experience with Cartwheel – the in-store app that has turned $1 billion in incremental sales over the last year.

By simplifying, focusing and controlling costs, Target plans to save and reinvest approximately $2 billion over the next two years. That reinvestment will lead to growth and transformation of making a great brand even better: “We know that great product and a curated experience still matter,” says Jones.

Since its inception in 2012, Kellogg has hosted numerous executives in residence, including Dag Kittlaus, founder and CEO of the voice-activated personal assistant Siri, which Apple bought in 2010; Sanjay Khosla, former President, Developing Markets of Kraft Foods; and Jonathan Becher, CMO of SAP.

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