We're throwing it back to 2018 — when Target celebrated the opening of its new storefront on the Lower East Side, Target — and when production partner, David Stark, created fake storefront facades mirroring the street as it was in the 70s. Included was an “homage” to famed NYC dive bar/music venue CBGB (the venue was shuttered in 2006). CBGB is considered the mecca of punk rock and new-wave, the place where bands like Blondie and the Ramones cut their teeth. The installation featured Target-branded exercise bands, and band-aids (get it?), as well as a poster inscribed with “The Resistance”. The installation was met with the expected outrage and ire, forcing Target to issue an apology.
Why were people so miffed about a squeaky-clean brand co-opting the likeness of a dingy, dirty, club? It comes down to authenticity, or the lack thereof.
Among many things, the internet has afforded us the opportunity to find our tribes, and our identities as individuals are linked to these groups — and to be honest, brands toe a fine line when trying to connect with these communities. Whether you are a yogi or a gearhead, you can sniff out fraud from a mile away.
As a brand, you must be aware of the emotional connections that people have to their tribes. If you do not take that into consideration, the results are cringe-worthy and can derail your standing within that group. Trust us, you will know when you missed the mark. (One should never underestimate the power of the comments section. People can be savage.) Musicians, fitness buffs, makeup artists and nerds are all passionate about their niches. Everyone knows you are trying to sell them something. How do you execute on that pitch? Well, therein lies a world of subtlety. As an agency, our role is to help brands understand what makes tribes tick, and then to find the best ways to speak their language.
But language extends beyond words. Color, photography, and tone of voice must be in lockstep with each other. Not only do you have to create an emotional connection, you must position yourself as an insider, someone who has been in the trenches with your customer. You saw the Talking Heads play at CBGB. You, too, get up at 5 AM to flip tractor tires. You know the best drug-store mascara. These kinds of insights are revealed through talking with your customers, and most importantly, listening to them. It must feel real, and that is hard.
As a creative partner, and as members of many different tribes, we bring a diverse set of beliefs and experiences to the table. We can be that objective eye. Let us help you understand your customers and deliver creative that truly connects. The last thing you want is to be the TRGT of an angry tribe.