Companies & Industries

Target Canada takes to YouTube to apologize for pretty much everything

Desperate times call for desperate measures

In the world of corporate mea culpas, we’ve seen plenty from companies in the wake of calamities like recalls, contaminations, and privacy breaches. But it’s rare to see one like this video, posted by Target Canada last week, apologizing for, well, pretty much everything. (One notable exception being this 2009 viral hit from Domino’s Pizza).

READ: A timeline of Target’s rocky first year in Canada »

Target has been plagued with difficulties since its launch in April 2013—check out our timeline of Target’s first year in Canada, and it’s clear that it was a rocky start. And the signs of trouble were there from before the start. As our own columnist Bruce Philp warned about the launch of Target Canada exactly one year ago:

Sure, [Canadians] say we want more choice, but time and again our behaviour organizes markets into a few dominant brands, from airlines to telecom to banks to coffee shops. Maybe we like to keep our lives simple. Maybe we just want to be able to keep an eye on everybody so they don’t try any funny business. Either way, Target needs to remember that, while not especially orderly, the Canadian marketplace for its products is actually not under-served.

And don’t imagine that careful market research is going to protect Target from overestimating us. Canadians have a bad habit of answering surveys as if they’re being asked whether someone’s new pants make them look fat. In the abstract safety of a focus group, we were probably fulsome in our enthusiasm for Target. Of course we’ll shop there. Of course we think it’s going to be better than where we’ve been shopping until now. Nobody says they don’t want something better than what they have. But the Canadian consumer wears pretty deep grooves on the road to the mall, despite her best intentions. Just ask Krispy Kreme.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and this remarkably candid video is the result. The cheery “Target Hearts Canada” icons just weren’t cutting it anymore, while in marketing circles trust is a competitive advantage. While this vague promise of change falls short of the kind of daring transparency that marked McDonald’s Our Food, Your Questions campaign, it’s a start.

READ: Our 2012 feature on the chain’s ambitious plans — Target’s friendly invasion »