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How Target Creates a Cohesive Brand Experience Across Thousands of Social Moments Pt. 2

by David Gorman

I recently had the honor of hosting a conversation with Kelsey Dahlager, Senior Manager of Social Performance and Capabilities for Target, at our Opal Quarterly Showcase. This is the second in our two-part Q&A—check out part one to learn about how social media is organized at Target, and how they use Opal to deliver a cohesive brand experience across many internal teams. (Some answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

Q: I’m curious to see a little bit more: How do you use Opal on a day-to-day basis? 

A: Well, to start, we use the Opal StoryFirst Framework to organize our work. We organize our stories by what we call categories—think baby, holiday, or Easter. The StoryFirst Framework is super helpful for any team in Opal to come in and see everything Target has in-market at any one time. Because for better or worse, everyone works really hard on what they’re assigned to, but it’s easy to lose sight of the marketing behemoth that is Target. So this is a super useful and almost humbling view of what we have going on in Target. It’s not just about what I’m doing—it’s a lot more than that! 

It’s really nice to have the stories color-coded, because we might have several different campaigns that ladder up to a certain category, so it’s nice to be able to tab in and see the next level of things within the story view. 

Q: How many stories does Target typically have?

A: Oh my. To be fair, we don’t ebb and flow a ton. Our categories might be seasonal, but they happen every year—like Easter. But on average, we maybe have about 30 different stories, and the only time we’d be adding a fresh new one is if we have a new limited-time offer brand or a limited-time launch. Those might designate their own new story. But pretty much, our stories are continuous year by year, and they just tend to have their peaks and valleys of activity.

Q: Are each of your stories social channels, or do they also include email or web content stories?

A: That’s a good question. We might be unique in the way Target uses Opal, in that it’s very social-focused. The social team brought on Opal initially, and that’s always been our primary use case. But obviously, marketing campaigns are not just social. We’re just now starting to get into exploring what other digital platforms and channels—or non-digital—Opal can help us plan for. 

We’re using Opal for social right now, but bottom line—we have Opal. And it’s valuable. So if we have other use cases, let’s spend time exploring that, because it’s here. Let’s use it.

Our team also uses the chat and activity features quite a bit to do quick edits, provide quick feedback, and get ultimate approval from leaders. So our chat portion is always popping off. But we also use the notes section as a catch-all for any information that is needed to post content that doesn’t have a unique field within Opal, such as product numbers.

We also use the approval workflows, and it’s been super helpful. We’ve cut down so much on sending emails with different versions of creative back and forth, so we don’t have to wait for huge files to upload to an email or spend all day in Dropbox. That’s kind of a small thing, but it matters. Especially when it comes to videos and TikTok content, this is a huge time saver.

Q: Can you tell us more about the process Target used to set up their stories?

A: Great question. That was before my time, but I know some things about it! In general, Target really organizes our work in its entirety—outside of Opal—by what category you work on (baby, apparel, holiday, etc.). So when it came to setting up a system within Opal, it made sense to translate how we organize our teams and our work into the StoryFirst Framework as well. 

Most categories have their own story. For example, babies is its own story, and within that, babies might have a couple different campaigns. There’s no seasonality to pregnancy, so babies are an always-on story—but we have a car seat trade-in event twice a year, which is a huge deal, so that’s where you see more of the peaks and valleys of activity.

Overall, it was pretty easy to see how our categories and campaigns would come to life within Opal, because we were already organized like that. 

Q: Is there a certain area at Target that the social team manages, such as apparel, food, and home, or do you manage all departments?

A: We as a social team are responsible for communicating everything that Target has to offer, which is a tall order. So our team has been really diligent about prioritizing what makes the most sense on social. 

We tend to analyze our performance based on engagement in general, so we keep track, category by category, which pieces of content are really getting that engagement from our guests [Target’s preferred term for their customers]. We want to drive traffic, we want to drive sales, but at the end of the day, we want to develop relationships with our guests on social. So revenue generated is not our be-all, end-all KPI for social. We want to offer a holistic picture of what Target has to offer, but we are very led by guest signals and what our guests prefer to interact with. So obviously babies is a big one—there are lots of moms out there on Instagram—along with apparel and accessories. 

There’s not a ton of paper plate content going out on social, but keep in mind I’m speaking mostly about organic content. We do have dozens of paid campaigns going off in social constantly, so that’s where we pay more attention to the things people aren’t necessarily going to share with their friends and comment on, but they do want to know that Target is there for them in that capacity. 

Q: How has Opal impacted business partners at Target? Are brand category managers, for example, on board with viewing and approving content within Opal?

A: Honestly, it’s been nothing but positive to include those partners, especially in the brand marketing space, in Opal. They’re not responsible solely for social—they’re responsible for TV, broadcast, print, out-of-home, all these different components that go along with a huge Target campaign. And I don’t know that there is a space like Opal for anything outside of social within Target. 

It’s really increasing that visibility, which also hopefully increases the empathy we have for other teams that play in those projects with us. Because all these teams are not mutually exclusive in terms of getting work done—we’re a big fat Venn diagram and there’s tons of overlap. I think our brand partners and creative partners have really latched onto this concept of, “Let’s put everything in one place so that we’re not looking over here, going over there. Just, here it is.”

Q: Target was a really early adopter of one of our new capabilities, stamps. What value have you seen in it? Any other thoughts?

A: I think you announced stamps at the last product roadmap webinar, right before the holidays, and you billed it as “Our Opal holiday gift to everyone.” And after talking with my Opal partners, I was like, “Thank you so much for this.” 

As you could assume by hearing about the quantity of work we do in Opal, we have a ton of Opal moments—thousands in a year. And every single one of those has to be set up by some actual human person. Stamps has made it impossibly easier to create all those moments and not have someone there 40 hours a week just doing so. It’s helped us take out a lot of the busywork of setting things up in Opal.

What we did is try to find the most commonly used social moments that are showing up on paid marketing campaigns or that we’re using over and over again, and make a stamp for them. You basically cut out three of the first five minutes of every moment’s creation, which sounds really small, but when you’re talking thousands of moments—it’s huge for us. 

It’s also made it a lot easier to train people on how to create moments. It’s helped us streamline our naming convention, and it’s taken a lot of the guesswork out and cut down on random human errors that happen when you’re setting up dozens of moments. 

So, yes—this was the best Christmas gift I got. Don’t tell my husband. 

Q: Are there other areas of Opal that are particularly important to you?

A: Definitely. Nested labels are something I jumped right on top of when it came out. We had these massive label lists to make sure everyone had the correct option to choose for their specific work, so nested labels really helped us organize that and cut out a lot of searching. Instead of scanning a list of 50 different sub-categories, you just have three that make sense to nest under, say “apparel”. It’s been a huge housecleaning benefit. 

Beyond nested labels, I’d also say that presentations have been a real help. Being able to easily gather up everything we did for a specific campaign into a presentation to share with leadership or brand marketing is really handy. It also helps when we’re doing audits of how much of different types of content we produced in the last year, or quarter by quarter, which helps with content mix ratio discussions. 

I also want to call out Opal as a great partner when Target has requests and ideas for new integrations and features that could really help our workflow. You guys show up and help us brainstorm options for integrations or API connections we could put in place that can help us take tedious steps out of the operation. We appreciate the general Opal flexibility and willingness to meet us where we are as partners. 

Q: Thank you for being a great partner as well! We certainly appreciate that. It was awesome to get a look at how you’re putting Opal to use and the way you think about it. 

A: Thanks for having me! 

To learn more about how marketers like Kelsey and brands like Target are improving visibility and working more efficiently, get in touch with us here or email me at solutions@workwithopal.com.

About the Author

David Gorman

SVP of Product and Co-founder

Software Enthusiast, Karaoke Superstar & Pioneer of AI + Marketer Collaboration

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