This holiday season, Target has partnered with TOMS to sell a line of reasonably priced gifts that follows TOMS’ “One for One” giving model, so that for every item sold, an item of equal value gets donated to someone in need. After years of heavily stressing what consumers are getting from Target — namely high-end designer brands for bargain prices — focusing on giving instead could be a welcome change for the brand.
The Target + TOMS holiday line, which will be available in stores on November 16, is affordable as well as charitable. All items in the collection, from women’s, men’s, and children’s clothing to housewares, cost less than $50, and the Target + TOMS digital campaign focuses on both the value and the charitable aspects of the TOMS line.
The company’s holiday website not only shows off the TOMS merchandise, but also lets consumers know exactly what they’ll be giving to charity when they buy. For example, purchasing a $28 women’s poncho means that one blanket gets donated to those in need. And a $16 T-shirt buys one week of meals for someone without enough to eat.
Showing customers the value of what they give as well as what they get is smart marketing, according to Ruth Bernstein, co-founder and chief strategic officer of YARD.
“Many brands include a charity donation with the price of a special item,” Bernstein says, “but there is something more special about giving a tangible, helpful item like meals, blankets, and shoes. It’s framed within the context of an individual that needs the help, so the impact you have is more relatable and rewarding.”
Target’s move to a more charitable holiday collection could also welcome back customers who have begun to grow a little wary of Target’s efforts to sell high-end goods to bargain-minded shoppers since the brand’s ill-fated 2012 partnership with Neiman Marcus. In that collaboration, the company’s holiday ads mimicked a fashion shoot and featured supermodel Karlie Kloss modeling holiday items that included a $100 Phillip Lam skateboard and a $500 Alice + Olivia bike, a marketing move that left much of the merchandise still on the shelves come New Year’s.
“Target is the defender of design democracy,” says Shireen Jiwan, founder and chief executive (CEO) of Sleuth. However, “a seemingly endless string of designer collaborations with everyone from Altuzarra to Missoni has left [some consumers] with a slightly sour taste in [their] mouths — as though all this mashing up is little more than gratuitous cash grabbing. The holidays are a perfect time for Target to renew its vow to deliver ‘design for all’ through a partnership with purpose and meaning.”
This year’s ads focus just as much on giving as they do getting. Target’s holiday ad on YouTube showcases not just TOMS merchandise but the goodwill that the One for One giving program offers to people in need.
The brand has also partnered with influencers such as DIY blogger Mr. Kate and television personality Ellen DeGeneres to showcase its “Together Sweater,” a giant, holiday patterned sweater with multiple head holes that stresses the importance of giving as much as we take.
The nostalgic ad and the silly take on an iconic holiday clothing item — the tacky sweater — are great ways to gently pull at consumers heartstrings without coming off as overtly sappy, Bernstein says.
“The holidays are a prime moment when shoppers with disposable incomes are acutely aware of [their] good fortune and all that [they] have to be thankful for,” Bernstein says. “This truth sparks a degree of guilt and leaves [shoppers] open to, and even looking for, ways to bring the heart back to the holidays. [Customers] don’t want all that giving to be simply gluttony wrapped up in a pretty bow. [They] want to feel the sense of meaning the season stands for, however subliminal it may be.”
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