Innovate or miss your “Target”

Innovate or miss the mark. Change is not only good, but necessary.

Target is the perfect example of failure to innovate. I am certain that the Target Corporation had the best of intentions bringing its promise of quality retail at low prices to Canada – only two short years ago.

The popular US retail giant had successfully positioned itself in the US as an upper-end discount store, and all indications were that Canadian’s were ready for it.

Why did Target fail to hit their target in Canada? Lack of innovation.

The Target brand launch in Canada was big and splashy. Colourful (note the Canadian spelling) Ads, with messaging that showed Target understood Canadians.  The creative and messaging almost invited the country to welcome the big kid from next door. I dare say that the Ads were even “Tim-Horton-esque

The ads and fanfare brought excitement and a promise that the Target cache, products, and pricing model could be replicated for Canadian’s, who loved to shop at Target when across the border.

When Canadian discount retailer “Zeller’s”, succumbed to the competition in 2011, Target swooped in to save the day. Surely it was just that Zeller’s, the Canadian retail staple founded in 1931, and acquired by the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1978, failed to keep up with new superstore discount retailers like Wallmart. The Zeller’s stores that failed provided much of the initial space for the first Target stores to open in Canada.

Obviously Target had all the right stuff to make it right?



Wrong. Target failed to innovate.


Whether it was that Target did not understand retail in Canada, how to work in Canadian communities, or the government policies that may have impacted how they delivered on their brand promises, Target failed to meet the requirements to thrive in Canada. They rested on the success they had in the US, and did not recognize the need for change.

Target was not the first, and it won’t be the last brand that has failed to innovate while pushing forward into a new market, sustaining profitability, or attempting growth.  Even brands that have a unique offering, and strong brand have failed due to lack of focus on systems and process that may have worked at one time.

Think Blockbuster.


Had Blockbuster Video innovated by providing something like the new “Red Box” that now sits at the front of supermarkets – perhaps Blockbuster’s fate may have been different?

Or consider Netflix. Netflix launched in Canada in September of 2010 This is a brand that saw the opportunity in streaming video that came with increased access to high speed WIFI and mobile devices that could handle streaming media.  Netflix took the lead in delivering streaming content, and then showed innovation in producing the content as part of their offering.


Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 10.12.16 AM


Netflix took a queue from HBO and Showtime – traditional content producers, and added what worked for them into their mix. They changed what they offered their customers, and provided more value.  More importantly, they innovated at a time where the competition could have left Netflix lost in cyberspace.

The Netflix model is now being replicated by others including Amazon with “Amazon Studios” and Yahoo!. Both are producing their own content, and adapting tactics that have worked in other mediums.

It was only in November 2014 that Canadian streaming media competitor “Shomi” – a joint venture between Rogers Media and Shaw entered the market as an alternative to Cable and Netflix.  Shomi came out of the gates as an alternative to the streaming service that Netflix offered in 2010 – in November 2014!

Bell Media’s “Crave TV” launched only a month later in December 2014, one month after Shomi. Need I say more?

Perhaps if Target had spent additional time and dollars in preparing to enter Canada, and more importantly considered how to manage products, services, people, and pricing that may be different in a new market – we would not have 17,000 Canadian’s unemployed as of last week’s announcement.

The moral of this story?


Innovation might be the next buzzword or hot catch phrase, but those who are actually putting it into practice will hit their targets.  Of this, I am convinced.




Alicia Whalen is a process innovator, social media influencer, digital media evangelist, and Co-founder of the successful digital marketing conference – Online Revealed Canada – now in its 10th year. A Blogger at, speaker, trainer, and lover of ah-ha moments. Tweet me @acoupleofchicks or connect with me on LinkedIn



Online Revealed Canada Conference:  Join us March 31-April 2 2015 in Toronto for the 10th annual Online Revealed Conference for digital marketing in tourism and travel.  After a decade of challenging the “old ways” of marketing online, and with a theme of “Predicting and Promoting A Look at The Future of Travel Marketing.” my partner and co-founder Patricia Brusha and I are excited to deliver a special 10th anniversary edition event with a new format, exciting venue and top speakers in the industry CONFERENCE REGISTRATION is now open.

I look forward to seeing friends and colleagues to share in where we have come and where we are going in digital marketing for tourism. What a ride it has been so far!


Article references:

  1. Financial Post: 2015/01/15 
  2. Financial Post: 2015/01/19
  3. Toronto Star: 2015/01/25

Storytelling and its role of marketing online

Patricia and I were recently asked by a colleague “why the focus on the story?” … “Isn’t what you do really more about Google algorithms, applying online marketing statistics and trends to individual web strategies, and measuring ROI for the client?

This question has had us thinking.

Why the story? Over the past five years since Patricia and I founded A Couple of Chicks’, we have had the pleasure of not only traveling across Canada and the US, but also of really knowing the places and people we are working with – and more importantly – what makes them unique.

So why are these stories so important to the success of what we do? I guess we could just go back to the marketing 101 textbook, which among other things, teaches us to understand the customer. Yes, we have research for that (and lots of it), and while many businesses don’t have the time or resources to individually know every customer, Patricia and I have been lucky enough to be invited into communities, and to really know the people we work with and are speaking to in the workshops and presentations that we do.

In fact, the “stories” have become so ingrained into our methodology that I am not quite sure that our strategies would be as effective without them.

Yes the latest digital marketing trend is important and relevant, and yes we need to understand the latest shift in Google’s algorithms, the new rules on 301 redirects, and how to add a source code to paid search ads for proper measurement – but we also need the narrative behind each unique web strategy, and the people that are building them. How can we truly roll out a successful and engaging web marketing program without first understanding the nuances of the business and who the customers are?

I will quote a Blogger who recently attended one of our presentations (said Blogger happens to be the “techy” son of the owner/operator of a successful Inn in Eastern Canada, who tagged along with his dad to listen to what the Chicks’ were saying about this whole online marketing thing). (Note the “story” in this paragraph)

He writes, “If every prospective guest to the Carriage House could flip through the pages of the guest book sitting in the lobby, they wouldn’t even consider staying elsewhere. With Facebook and Twitter, this is now entirely possible to do online, and relatively easy to promote.”

I could not have said it better myself! So although the research, the training, efficient process and project management skills are all key to assisting businesses to be successful online – sometimes telling a story does it best.

Hey L.S – we think you are on to something btw. The technology driven “writer’s utopia” may just be in sight, but alas we must make sure it is profitable too. And yes I did just use “btw” in that sentence!

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

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