The Speed of Culture Podcast: Behind the Scenes of Target's 'Expect More, Pay Less' Promise

Executive vp Rick Gomez on how the brand is adapting to meet consumer expectations in a rapidly evolving retail world

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Are you curious about the ever-changing retail landscape?

This week on The Speed of Culture podcast, we’re talking to Rick Gomez, the evp and chief food and beverage officer at Target. Gomez has had a unique career path, shifting from law studies to leading marketing strategies at the big box retailer. His experiences at consumer packaged goods giants like Quaker Oats and PepsiCo have shaped his understanding of retail marketing.

Over the last decade, Gomez has played a pivotal role in shaping Target’s marketing strategy, having held several leadership positions within the company including svp of marketing and chief marketing, digital and strategy officer. Over the years, he has managed multibillion-dollar CPG brands across Target’s food and beverage side, earning the 2022 Retail TouchPoints Retail Innovator Award.

On this episode, he explains how the promise of “Expect More, Pay Less” is being upheld at Target and how the brand is adapting to meet consumer expectations in a rapidly evolving retail world. This episode is a must-listen for anyone interested in retail, marketing and the power of listening to consumers.

Gomez also shares the wealth of knowledge he has gathered from his experiences at larger CPG companies, and how these insights have shaped his leadership approach at Target. He emphasizes the significance of understanding and adapting to ever-changing consumer expectations while shedding light on the characteristics that define successful marketing teams and strategies.  

Tune into the latest episode to learn about the value of listening to your customers to influence retail marketing strategies.

Key highlights:

  • 03:02 – 05:10 – Lessons from Rick Gomez: Gomez discusses three takeaways that have guided his work at Target. First, he emphasizes the necessity of fully understanding your brand positioning and remaining authentic to its values across all consumer touchpoints. Secondly, he stresses the significance of being consumer-centric. This involves attentively listening to the needs and challenges of your customers and devising strategies to address these more effectively than competitors. Lastly, he underscores the advantages of operating within a substantial matrix organization like PepsiCo, where relationship-building and cross-functional collaboration are essential for achieving consumer satisfaction and overarching business objectives. By adopting these insights, marketers can enhance their leadership skills and improve consumer satisfaction.
  • 07:52 – 10:41 Adapting to Evolving Consumer Demands: Affordability has been a consistent demand from Target’s customers, which aligns perfectly with the company’s longstanding promise to “Expect More, Pay Less.” Target delivers this by continually expanding its range of private labels across various categories. Additionally, Target leverages a personalized loyalty program to provide custom discounts, enhancing customer satisfaction and loyalty. A notable example of Target’s marketing strategy is the introduction of a $25 Thanksgiving meal bundle. This initiative not only meets the immediate needs of consumers but also builds long-lasting positive associations with the brand. Companies should ensure their brand promise resonates with customers’ expectations and leverage positive experiences to build loyalty and trust. 
  • 07:52 – 10:41 Keeping Pace with Health and Wellness: Target is actively adapting to meet its customers’ evolving health and wellness needs. Gomez highlights that while organic and fresh products continue to be popular, they are noticing growth in categories like vegan, dairy-free and keto products. There’s also an emerging trend in nonalcoholic beverages like beer, wine and mocktails. The wellness trend is not just confined to food and nutrition, it extends to self-care as well, with Target noticing strong growth in its beauty business. This reflects consumers’ broad definition of health and wellness, incorporating both nutrition and self-care. To meet consumers’ diverse needs, brands need to stay attuned to them and expand their product lines.
  • 13:54 – 15:46 – Balancing Digital and Physical Shopping Experiences: During the pandemic, Target witnessed a significant boom in its digital business, which has continued to show robust growth. Nevertheless, physical stores play an essential role in Target’s overall retail strategy. The nature of shopping trips varies between customers. Some seek a swift, convenient experience, making online shopping the preferred choice. Others enjoy the experience of browsing in-store during a free hour. Target strives to meet these diverse customer needs by providing optimal experiences both in-store and online. When it comes to differentiation, catering to the unique preferences of each consumer is one way to stand out from your competitors.  
  • 18:05 – 19:58 – Enhancing the Customer Experience: As consumer expectations continue to evolve with advancements in technology, brands must step up their game to meet these demands. One way Target has managed to meet these changing expectations is by offering a Starbucks drink to customers using their drive-up service. This strategy, once considered an unrealistic goal, has now become a reality, with customers receiving their hot beverage in under four minutes. By tapping into existing consumer behaviors and integrating them into their brand experience, Target is not only meeting but exceeding customer expectations.
  • 21:52 – 24:20 – Building a Successful Team: Gomez underscores the importance of diversity in building a formidable marketing team. He suggests incorporating individuals with various backgrounds, experiences and career trajectories to cultivate a wide array of perspectives that can spark innovative ideas. Gomez also highlights the necessity of team members possessing resilience and adaptability. In the volatile retail sector, employees need to be agile to alter strategies frequently. They also need to withstand challenges and inspire the team during tough times.