Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Target Audience

It’s just wrong how much I like going to Target.

And so out of character.

I have a deep-seated belief that Americans consume too much. We own more things than ever before, we’re racking up credit card debt faster than ever before, and no one has ever shown me a psychological study proving that buying more stuff makes you more happy. I practice “Reduce, Re-use, Re-cycle” to an almost absurd extent (ask Consort about finding shriveled jellyfish cadavers on the stove; they were exotic tea bags, waiting to be used for a second dipping). I also have an allergy to anything tied to Saturday morning cartoons, an upcoming movie or a line of toys. This alone should make the entire children’s clothing section of Target a life-threatening experience.

And yet, Target makes me happy. It’s like a pilgrimage to the temple of Hestia, the goddess of the hearth. My domestic skills and impulses are only slightly better than those of a guinea pig, yet walking down an aisle at Target, I’m briefly transported into the Land of the Bountiful Homemaker:

“...Oh, look! Dishcloths with bright flowers! How practical, because the bright flowers will hide stains! And I can get matching oven mitts and a tea cozy! And I can pick up the minor color in matching coffee cups and a place setting for eight! Ooh, a coordinated barbecue apron and outdoor umbrella!...”

I bask in the Quinn I have created in Aisle 10. This is a Quinn who bakes themed cakes for every holiday (Specialized cake molds - Aisle 24). This is a Quinn who whips up blueberry muffins on the spur of the moment on Sunday morning (blueberry muffin mold - endcap, Aisle 23). This is a Quinn who never says to her daughter, “Did I feed you dinner yet?”. Having satisfied the need to imagine myself this way without having to do any of the actual work, I go on to the next aisle, where a whole new Quinn awaits.

Today, I was prancing merrily through Target with my friend Veronica. Somewhere between grabbing the new Carl Hiasson novel and finding the dog’s worming medicine, Veronica enquired “How is this different from Wal-Mart?”

I stood frozen in place, holding a flex-headed toothbrush and a box of moth balls. Veronica knows, as anyone around me with ear drums knows, how I feel about Wal-Mart (See: Sexual discrimination; Anti-union policies; Death of Main Street mom-and-pop stores; Mandatory unpaid overtime. etc). So why don’t I feel the same way about Target?

I said slowly “Well, I know about the Wal-Mart abuses… and I don’t know of any Target abuses…not that there aren’t any… and I really hope there aren’t... because…” I stared at her helplessly.

Veronica said flatly “You want Target to remain pure because it’s cuter”.

My mind cleared as if it had been scrubbed with Murphy’s Oil soap, which I had just thrown into my cart along with shish-kabob skewers, shoe polish and pudding. Target is cuter! I don’t expect them to be the good guys, but I want them to be the neutral guys, which in the weight class of big-box, mega-store retail chains would make them the good guys!

And what is it about Target that I like so much it affords them this moral lattitude?

Forbidden dessert.

Fact: In the early 1970’s, a multi-million dollar study was commissioned by a consortium of major advertising agencies and their clients to address the most pressing question of all time: “What do Women Want?” While all this effort and expense would have made Freud blush, the results were conclusive enough to shape the American cultural landscape for the rest of the century; and probably for the rest of history.

What did women want? We wanted to eat.

It seems women loved talking about food, thinking about food, planning food, and most of all, eating food. The advertisers took heed, and we’ve had thirty years when any product purchased by women must have some thematic connection to food. Subtle or overt, it didn’t matter as long as it got us salivating.

Looking around the kitchen and bathroom departments in Target, I notice the common color schemes are bright pink, orange, bright green and red. The marketing mavens at Target have determined that while most women will not buy themselves a cupcake with rainbow sprinkles every day, we do like to be surrounded by things that remind us of dessert. Buying a regular toilet brush makes even a supermodel feel middle-aged and dreary. Buying a translucent pink toilet-scrubber at Target combines the virtuous feeling of doing a tedious errand with the naughty satisfaction you’ve just bought the world’s biggest Jolly Rancher.

I walked around with my newly enlightened eyes, and saw subliminal candy everywhere. The make-up department might have had neutral colors in stock, but they were hidden behind eye shadow apparently designed by the Jelly Bellies people. I didn’t know whether to wear the lipstick or eat it. [I was more likely to eat it since pink lipstick and I have a restraining order against each other]. The blow-up exercise balls looked like giant Everlasting Gobstoppers. The only places in Target where the colors weren’t derived from a children’s dessert menu were in men’s wear and electronics. I found those departments drab and tedious and left quickly. What, would it kill them to make a Play Station candy-apple green and shaped like a Sno-Cone?

The in-store music was playing something vaguely familiar, what was it? I hummed for a second, and then got it.

“My Girl Lollipop”

I popped a stick of hot-pink sugarless gum in my mouth and headed for the check-out line.

10 Comments:

Blogger Jan said...

Wait. Stop.

Did you and Victoria just succeed in removing me from MY state of "blissfully unaware"?

Ugh.

I KNOW Target is better than Wal Mart. It is! It is!!!!!

It HAS to be!!!!

7:59 AM  
Anonymous rebecca said...

Target IS better. And this is beside the simple fact that Target doesn't sell guns. I've been working on a funding project for a local organization and Target does some amazing corporate giving.

See http://target.com/target_group/community_giving/index.jhtml

or http://www.targetcorp.com/targetcorp_group/community/foundation.jhtml

BUt never fear post-hipsters, they also sponsor a NASCAR vehicle. :-)

9:00 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

Target will always be cuter than Wal-Mart. One can always say "Target" with a pseudo-French accent in order to convey the sense of going somewhere snobby and exotic. Can the same be done with the ugly-sounding "Wal-Mart?" No way, Tarjay...

9:47 AM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

Thank you, Rebecca. For giving us this information, there will be a small bag on candy sent to you post-haste.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

No bright colors in the electronics department at Tar-jay? You mean you missed the Hello Kitty boom boxes, and the SpongeBob Square Pants televisions? Call me next time you're going, and I'll take you on the "pro tour."

1:09 PM  
Anonymous Lyn said...

I love Target.

Period.

End of Message.

1:45 PM  
Anonymous Rebecca said...

Candy? Did someone say candy?

Although my all-time favorite candy can not be found at Tar-Jay (for that you would have to go to L’Artisan du Chocolat at 1st and Beverly next to Picholine and have the rosemary infused-dark chocolate coated-piece of heaven that I was introduced to last week and have been dreaming about EVER SINCE), you can get most everything else at Tar-Jay.

So, anyone want to cite their favorite Target in LA? I'm partial to the Eagle Rock one because it is small, close, and I love to take my cart for a ride on the cart escalator......

5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) Target is better. Better to employees, better business practices. I, myself, went through this very same angst, and was relieved I didn't have to give them up.
2) Pasadena Target. Eagle Rock one gets too messy, and doesn't have as much stuff on display. What's the point, if not gloriously colorful excess?
3)I'm addicted to the same Piccoline chocolates, except I will take any of the herb flavored ones. I'm not that picky.
--Mary

7:34 PM  
Blogger Quinn Cummings said...

The cart escator is exciting until you somehow manage to jam your cart and a storage bin you've wedged underneath into the track, thereby ruining the fun for everyone.

Not that I've done that.

Go Pasadena.

8:10 PM  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Target rocks! I haven't been there in about a month and am seriously suffering from withdrawl.

4:43 PM  

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