The Digital Signage Insider

What Target Learned from Channel Red: 18 Tips from Mark Bennett

Published on: 2009-05-14

In a rare appearance at an industry event, retail leader Target shed some light on how they run their in-store network, known as Channel Red. Mark Bennett, the executive producer and group manager for media production, took the stage at the 4th Annual Digital Signage Content Strategies Summit in Las Vegas this week to share some insights and help advance the industry. Target has been experimenting with in-store digital media for a number of years now, so Mark's thoughts on guidelines, challenges and success factors carry the weight not only of a large retail organization, but also of a seasoned digital signage network operator.

What is Channel Red?

Target's Channel Red network includes four in-store channels: electronics, music/movies, kids' entertainment and video games. Each channel runs on a bank of screens in the appropriate area of the store. Tests on a 5th channel in the pharmacy area of selected stores are currently underway too. The program loop is typically a mix of vendor spots, entertainment, interstitials (channel branding) and information/education.

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What has Target learned from their network?

To keep it simple, Mark divided his findings into categories:

General guidelines

1. When it comes to content, shorter is better. Make sure to keep it simple.
2. Use sound only for enhancement, never to "drive" the spot/message.
3. Always include a call to action -- what you want the guest to do.
4. Content needs to be specifically created for the in-store medium.

Success factors

5. Have a strong technical tool box: understand what you have available for segmentation, demographics, etc. so you can build a better show.
6. Establish clear objectives early: the key is to designate someone to think strategically and always keep an eye on the "big picture."
7. Always keep your refresh budget in mind: Stretch it out by creating multiple versions of each spot.
8. Use branded interstitials to keep the show fresh and surprise and delight guests.
9. Integrate digital signage into the media mix: if a vendor wants a spot on the show, find out "where" they are (e.g. mobile, online, end cap), and place the content accordingly.
10. Understand vendor expectations: Work according to the vendor's goals (e.g. driving traffic to end caps vs. brand building).
11. Ask for vendor feedback: regularly ask how to make the network better.
12. Challenge vendors to provide good content: Target can and will refuse content if it doesn't meet quality standards.
13. Leverage other marketing vehicles, be it mobile, online, end cap, etc.

Challenges and suggestions

14. Content shouldn't be an afterthought.
15. Know your audience.
16. Use flexible content.
17. Don't be complacent.
18. Network with your peers.

Bill's thoughts

What I like about Mark's "challenges and suggestions" section is that you can see they were clearly influenced by the items in his "success factors" section. You're looking at advice from a group that has clearly encountered some challenges, has worked to resolve them, and is willing to share the steps to those resolutions with us. While many of the tips and suggestions are clearly content-oriented (after all, he was speaking at the Content Strategies Summit), commonsense guidelines like "don't be complacent" are more broadly applicable.

Unfortunately, there's one thing that Mark didn't mention. While somebody from Target might be able to regularly interface with vendors, reject content (or direct its production), and the like, a smaller network manager or smaller retailer might not have the bandwidth or the influence to get involved at that level. That's not an excuse, mind you, and I certainly would agree that a good network is a true partnership between content suppliers (vendors), the network and the venues. For a smaller team with a relatively unknown brand, it's certainly worth shooting for the same goal -- just keep in mind that it may take you a lot more time and effort to get everyone communicating in the ways that Target describes.

What do you think of Target's recommendations for in-store networks? Can these be applied to your own projects too?


+1 # Justin Krupa 2009-12-15 08:02
When it comes to the mastery of content/impact ratios, I believe 100% that Target's in-store network (Channel Red) sets the standard and other large retailers (including Wal-Mart) should take notice.
+1 # Bill Gerba 2009-12-17 18:55
Hi Justin, Channel Red definitely has its strong points, however many in the industry would like to see Target experiment with screens outside of their electronics and media areas. I think when it comes to spurring action at the aisle- and shelf-level, Walmart's current-generation Smart Network is hard to beat.

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