As originally written for Brick Meets Click, a community of retail experts that shares ideas and insights about the future of shopping.
Here's one for the case studies' repertoire.
Missoni, the legendary Italian design house created a 400 piece downmarket collection for mass retailer Target.
Target is no stranger to designer cool, having featured many designer collaborations in the past (Michael Graves, Isaac Mizrahi, Liberty of London, Jean-Paul Gauthier, Alexander McQueen…). The Target brand's established sense of design has allowed it to cross the barriers of social acceptability, where shopping at Target is cool, no matter your social or financial status.
As you have most likely heard, the Missoni for Target collection launched bright and early on September 14 and was due to run until October 22. This collection, of course, had immediate appeal to fashionistas and stylistas everywhere who blogged and tweeted galore about it all. The advertising and social media machines were also at work to create demand. And lots of it.
Indeed, shoppers formed long lines outside Target stores hours before the 8:00am opening time, hoping to get first dibs on the "Missoni" goods. In what appeared to be a feeding frenzy, most stores were cleaned out of Missoni for Target merchandise within a matter of hours and some within minutes of opening. We've heard stories of customers' aggressive behavior as they fought each other for merchandise and of the police being called in to restore the peace.
Unfortunately, online shoppers fared not much better as the Target website crashed repeatedly throughout the day, frustrating hundreds of customers unable to complete their orders. Adding insult to injury, those few who did manage to place their orders in between online blackouts received emails stated that their orders were canceled or delivery of product postponed.
Within hours, secondary markets surfaced on Ebay and Craigslist, pricing items at two or three times the regular retail price (38,000 plus Missoni for Target items were recorded at one point).
I'm not sure that any them can be fully answered today, but it's certainly fodder for speculation as to whether Target would deem this campaign to be a success or a fiasco.
Was the scarcity of product intentional?
It would seem hard believe that this was the strategy: creating rabid demand and then leave the fans disappointed and unsatisfied. Have there been many recorded instances of this being a successful tactic in the long term? Of course, scarcity is always a good driver for demand, but it appears that the campaign was not presented to purposely resemble that of a U2 live concert ticket sale where scalpers and the privileged few get the tickets.
To the observer, it seems rather like a missed opportunity to sell more product and to - reasonably - satisfy demand. The collection was to be available until October 22. How could Target have so badly misjudged that date? By setting the date, the company set expectations. Are they incapable of fulfilling expectations or simply have not intention of doing so?
There have been speculations on both sides of this "scarcity" argument. But the perception is, as @frumpfactor put it on Twitter: "Artificially manufactured scarcity just isn't my thing. Yes, I'm talking to you, #missonifortarget."
Where was Target's Social Media team?
We would assume that Target's social media team would have been all ears and have measured the social buzz, especially since many campaigns (bloggers, etc) were launched specifically to create… buzz. Were they not listening? Enough sophisticated social media monitoring tools exist now that a reasonable measure of impact and expected demand could have been assumed.
Was this frenzy beneficial or hurtful to the Target and Missoni brands?
In Target's case, the short-term is not looking pretty. Many shoppers are completely disgruntled with how Target managed (rather, did NOT manage) customer support for the Missoni for Target campaign. New Twitter handles such as the @BoycottTarget and hashtags such as #TargetFail reveal the extent of disgruntlement among previous fans of the brand. We also need to ask ourselves why Target was still running their Missoni ads on television days after the stores had clearly been wiped out of the merchandise.
Certainly, this brought additional attention to the Target brand and perhaps brought in new shoppers. Realistically, whether in-store or online, their experience could NOT have been a positive one. That answers that.
For Missoni, as a purveyor of luxury design, it is understood that their downmarket Target collection was a lovely excuse for the "regular folk" to get great design at mass-market prices. Everyone knows it's not the "real thing" and certainly not the same quality as the original Missoni luxury collection (see a blogger's explicit disappointment on that subject). But, will the reception that the brand received at Target boost the visibility for its luxury collection or render the iconic zigzag and stripe designs something to bequeath to the populace who showed such a liking for it
What of the secondary market for Missoni for Target goods?
It's difficult to find a positive note on this one. Opportunistic eBay vendors are further raising the ire of empty-handed Missoni for Target shoppers. Margherita Maccapani Missoni (the face of Missoni) herself tweeted "just dont buy it! It's just stupid to buy it for a higher price! U can get M Missoni for that price!" Of course, this will be seen as many as benefiting Target, proof of demand for its product and for all the additional media coverage created by the secondary market. In the end, we would like to believe that the notion of value and good old-fashioned economics will prevail. No matter how desirable that $54.99 Missoni for Target multi-striped sweater dress might be, consumer common sense will quickly prove that this price curve might not be so elastic.
What about elemental shopper rules?
Despite all the snazzy web 3.0 bells & whistles, it appears that something as simple as, let's say, a "2 per person" rule would have prevented "scalpers" from grabbing the entire row of cardigans or heaping Missoni homegoods until their baskets overflowed. This would have worked in stores as well as online. Duh
Interesting to note that since the beginning of writing of this piece on Saturday September 18 to the next day, splashy references to Missoni were quickly removed from Target's homepage and can now discreetly be found under given categories.
So, success or fiasco? As consumers, especially for fans of either brand, this was a definite let down. Target gained its design-aware reputation by catering to the style-savvy consumer, the very ones they frustrated and misled through this campaign. But, when we know that, deep down, the success of a brand is all about TRUST, we know that Target has undeniably failed this exercise and its brand has been negatively impacted in the eyes of consumers and perhaps of future collaborators.
As consumers becomes more and more vocal and assertive - thanks in part to shiny social media apps, certainly they won't let brands get away with this sort of behavior, whether it was intentional of not.
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