Target Fails to Convince Canadians Not to Shop at Walmart

So Target opened in Canada this year. Were you not aware? Neither were most Canadians. As Brand Channel put it back in 2012, Target crossed the border “politely, and bearing gifts.

The brand hit all the right opening notes, checking the charity and environmental responsibility boxes by allowing Facebook fans to donate (via the company) to their charities of choice and announcing plans to aim for LEED certification at all 124 Canadian locations. They were one of the first organizations in the country to do that, and it earned them a commendation from the Green Building Council. They even paired with a local fashion “incubator” to create a contest offering one lucky up-and-coming designer a chance to sell his or her 2014 line in Target.

So it was a three-pronged attack, and they did everything right. One problem, though: Walmart remains cheaper than Target when it comes to the basics, and that’s kind of a big deal.

As sales continued to disappoint, executives met last month to review the painful reality that they’re having a bit of trouble “influencing price perception”. One editorial calls that “fail[ing] Canadians’ PR smoke screen“, but it really means that Canadians, while impressed by Target’s efforts, weren’t willing to return to the store to buy “the basic household items that prompt them to visit stores often.”

There’s a lesson to be learned here: CSR is an essential part of any successful campaign for a global, household-name brand. But if the ultimate selling point for your competitors is “OK, but we’re cheaper”, then its value is somewhat limited—especially if “the greater good” isn’t part of your brand’s basic DNA.

People are willing to pay more for free-trade shoes and coffee. But toilet paper?

(Image via The Canadian Press)