Target’s On Target with its Gender “Controversy” Response

26 Aug Target’s On Target with its Gender “Controversy” Response

Odd couple no more, now these two can live
harmoniously in the toy section of Target. 

Recently Target made an announcement that made national news. An announcement that when I read the headline on I thought to myself, “eh, ok.”

In case you missed it, Target decided that maybe there is no such thing as “girls toys” or “boys toys,” or “girls bedding” or “boys bedding.” There’s simply “toys” and “bedding.”

Like most other people I know I didn’t think this was a big deal. Don’t get me wrong, as the mother of two little girls – one of whom loves Transformers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as much as she loves My Little Pony and anything from Disney’s Frozen – I was pretty darn happy to hear that no longer would there be toy aisles so pink you’d swear they were decorated by Pinkalicious herself. Still, I didn’t see why this warranted Target making an official announcement on their website.

Apparently I was wrong. To many people this was a big deal. (Warning: click that link at your own risk, as there is a whole lot of crazy on the other side.)

Per a Target spokesperson, the company recognized that by making these changes people would have a variety of opinions. What we don’t know is if they really anticipated the outrage and vitriol that would, and continues to, fill their Facebook page and be thrown at them in the print media. But one thing, at least in my opinion, is clear: Target has weathered this storm quite well. Allow me to explain.

Shortly after I realized just how angry people were about the situation, I had a conversation with my mom about it. She asked me, “You don’t think they (Target) will change their mind, do you?” I assured her they would not. See, the thing is that the executives at Target knew exactly what they were doing. They did not need to put out a statement or announcement about this change. They could have quietly done away with the gender specific signage in the specific sections they were changing, but they felt strongly enough about this topic to take a stand.

However there’s more to it than that. Target wanted to let its customers know it was listening. Take, for example, these sections from their announcement… 

 Over the past year, guests have raised important questions about a handful of signs in our stores that offer product suggestions based on gender.”

“We heard you, and we agree. 

We thank guests all the time for challenging us to get better at what we do and take the shopping trip to new levels. We’re always listening, and your thoughts and ideas help us make Target, your Target, a better place. 

While customers surely would have noticed the change on their own (how can you not when there is that much pink!), Target representatives didn’t want to wait for customers to notice. They wanted to make it clear that they valued customer service, and part of that is listening to their customers and updating their stores in ways that make sense.

Target was also at the ready on the social media front. Now, I don’t think they truly knew what was going to come their way, but when the complaints started rolling in Target’s social media team was there to greet them. They responded to comments, corrected inaccurate information and attached a name of a Target employee to each response.


Even when some may have felt Target was being too nice and stepped in to help the company respond to the haters, the company let it play out for a bit before having the fake account shut down. But, it turns out the company didn’t entirely mind what their helper had to say.

In the world of crisis communications – if one can even consider this a crisis, which is highly dubious – Target handled this situation with grace, dignity and a great sense of humor.

Jennifer Edgerly
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