Inside Target’s New Marketing Playbook | CMO Strategy

Rick Gomez. Credit: Target

An endurance athlete, Rick Gomez has completed numerous marathons and half-Ironman races. He’s even done triathlons. But running the marketing department of Target Corp. might be his toughest challenge yet.

At a time when the retail landscape is littered with empty storefronts and pimpled by sales declines, Gomez, who was promoted to the CMO position at the Minneapolis-based retailer in January, has the task of restoring the once-mighty brand to its former glory. And after four consecutive quarters of same-store sales drops — Target reported a 1.3% decline in first-quarter same-store sales on Wednesday — it’s an uphill battle.

“It’s incredibly competitive,” said the 47-year-old exec now in charge of Target’s $450 million measured media account. “The headlines are constantly talking about how retailers are shutting stores and on the verge of bankruptcy. There’s going to be a lot of consolidation of winners and losers. We at Target are going to fight like hell to be a winner.”

Goodbye law school
A 20-year veteran of the industry, Gomez has certainly trained for the experience. Though he initially planned to attend law school as his father did before him and had been accepted into Columbia, Gomez followed his undergrad at Dartmouth by working as an assistant brand manager for Cap’n Crunch cereal. Changing the colors of Crunchberries and choosing the toy-in-the-box proved entertaining enough to convince him to continue with marketing and forget a legal career. Gomez went on to stints at MillerCoors and PepsiCo before joining Target in 2013 as senior VP-brand and category marketing.

“It was the best decision in my career to stick with marketing and not go to law school,” he said, noting that his upbringing in Texas and New Jersey, which included a lot of moving around, prepared him for the industry because he learned how to meet and empathize with people.

Already, Gomez has implemented operational changes…

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