Target’s Back-To-School Commercials Set High Standard For Competitors

Target and Walmart are arguably the two most popular shopping venues for back-to-school shopping across many grade levels. Studies have been conducted to see how each company’s’ marketing tactics reflect in their prices. In 2012, Time reported that overall, Target saved customers only 46 cents for every 100 dollars spent, however, “what appears to have put Target ahead, at least for the time being, is a blitz of seasonal and back-to-school discounts and promotions.”

Target has done it again this year with its back-to-school themed television commercials that are directed towards students and parents alike. The majority of Target’s commercials seek to reach elementary and middle school aged kids, depicting real-life scenarios of heading back-to-school.

Through epideictic rhetoric, Target’s back-to-school advertisements illustrate a world that children want to live in now, whether it’s going back to school with the perfect supplies or by conquering his or her fears. Many children experience a sense of ‘back-to-school fever’ and Target hones on that.

Although, the company has gone further this year, enlisting songs circa 1981 to serve as the background music of the commercials. The parental demographic likely went to school themselves during this time and can easily recognize the songs “I just Can’t Get Enough” by Depeche Mode and “Kids in America” by Kim Wilde. Target has personalized this media to parents, who will be making the purchases, by playing the songs to a more child-friendly tune. The advertisements create a sense of nostalgia for parents, encouraging them to reminisce on his or her own school days.

Song: Depeche Mode-I just can’t get enough (1981)

This connection created through the media from seller to consumer could potentially make this brand stand out from others and illustrates Wilbur Schramm’s Source-Message-Channel-Receiver Communication Model. Target serves as the source by sending out the message, which is that they offer school supplies at a low cost. These advertisements and commercials illustrate the channel and, in this particular case, the receiver is the parents.

Song: Kim Wilde-Kids in America (1981)

In the “Kids in America” themed commercial, Target also highlights a philanthropic motive through a giving campaign entitled, “Buy One, Give One.” This effort attempts to persuade consumers to buy the Target brand supplies because for each supply purchased, another will be donated to a child in need. Utilitarianism describes an effort that produces the greatest good for the greatest number of people. By deciding to shop at Target, as opposed to other stores, consumers are doing more good for a greater amount of children depending on how many items he or she purchases.

Target has made a great effort this back-to-school season to compete with other stores that have similar supplies at low costs. Do you think their tactics are effective in reaching out to publics?


-Kaitlyn Russell, Anna Joy Zima, Malia Swift

8 thoughts on “Target’s Back-To-School Commercials Set High Standard For Competitors

  1. Timely example and worthy of analysis since how we frame various rituals (beginnings and endings) is kind of a big deal. Are their tactics effective? Moderately so and they work without much risk which is good. Your post is helpful in beginning to explain why but by invoking three very different concepts: epideictic rhetoric, an outdated linear model of communication and utilitarianism you fall short of really helping us crack the code. As epideictic rhetoric what do these advertisements praise and blame? They praise new not old, stuff not thoughts, children not adults, fun not work. That’s a “hostile” reading of the ad, but one I could defend. I would defend it by looking out how they domesticized rather edgy rock on roll songs through using child-like instrumentation. Good post, got me thinking!

  2. Dr. Olsen,
    Thank you for providing a new insight into the commercial! By looking further into epideictic rhetoric and what Target’s Back-to-school advertisements praise and blame, we agree that we could have a deeper understanding as to why the company used these genres of songs. It would be interesting to go more in depth in order to analyze why these certain rock and roll songs were used. By playing the songs through a more child-friendly instrument, Target appears to be praising children rather than adults. However, they have been successful in praising families as a whole during this back-to-school time that affects both children and adults.

    • I understand the need for technology, but I still want to touch the sales ads and create art with my black sharpie in hand as I boldly circle the much needed items. I am old school and that may have something to do with my age. I have a Nook, yet I still enjoy the texture from holding a real book. Inga age 44.

      • Inga,
        “Old School” back-to-school shopping versus the new age technology definitely clash sometimes. However, I think that Target is trying to find a balance between the two separate generations, both parents and children today in order to reach a larger target.

  3. I highly enjoyed reading your post on Target’s back-to-school tactics. I really liked that you inserted the commercials themselves so I could gain a clearer understand of just what you were referring to. I do think their tactics are somewhat effective in reaching out to the public and convincing them to purchase their back-to-school supplies at Target as opposed to other stores, like Wal-Mart. I never really gave much thought to how they are using older songs that are from the children’s parents age group but in a way that’s intriguing to the children. That’s pretty clever, if you ask me! I also think that their marketing campaign about “buy one – give one” is pretty genius too. I don’t know just how much it convinces people to change their shopping location to Target, but I can almost bet they “feel better”, once they make that purchase, knowing that they helped some children that were in need. Overall, I think the post was insightful and very interesting. Great Job!

    • Tayler,
      Thank you for the positive feedback! What’s interesting about advertising is that some intentional tactics can go unnoticed by consumers occasionally, so that may be a problem for Target if their intentions aren’t succeeding. “Feeling better” after shopping is a great point. Most consumers would shop more in order to gain that positive feeling afterwards, which Target has honed on.

  4. What an insightful analysis of back-to-school commercials! This shopping period is on of the top yearly periods for the US economy, after Thanksgiving and Christmas. The competition that companies face to brand themselves as the store to shop at is very apparent. I enjoyed your analysis of Target’s branding to appeal to a variety of audiences – kids, parents, and people who want to do good with their money. This is a unique combination that, in my opinion, Target seems to have been successful with. It is unique – especially in the aspect of charity. There are very little stores that can say your money also goes towards helping others. I think this would be very effective in drawing in parents to spend their money at Target.

    • Esme,
      Reaching a large target market (and various consumers) seems to be a common goal among large stores, such as Target because they offer so many products for various demographics. It’s interesting to see that they have been successful in your opinion!

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