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NEW YORK — Is red dead?

This story first appeared in the February 11, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

When it comes to the color’s frequent appearance in advertising for Target Stores, including the chain’s ubiquitous red-and-white bull’s-eye logo, at least one market researcher says the hue is past its prime.

“Trying to own the color red may be more difficult for Target, and perhaps not worth the investment, since several other brands are also working with red: Express, Ferragamo, Bacardi rum, Coca-Cola and The Learning Channel,” asserted Irma Zandl, president of The Zandl Group, based here. “The red-and-white bull’s-eye logo seems to have become more prevalent in the last few months,” she continued, “but with so many companies [using red] right now, it’s not as strong a point of differentiation as it was in the past.”

Zandl’s criticism follows comments made last Wednesday by Michael Francis, Target Corp.’s senior vice president of marketing, who told an audience at the National Retail Federation’s Retail Advertising Conference, “We want to own the color red,” and revealed Target will further expand its use of the bull’s-eye. A Target spokesman declined comment Monday.

Red might be overexposed, but Target’s bull’s-eye is still hitting the mark with consumers: 74 percent of them recognized it on a first try, in marketing consultant Brand Keys’ Customer Loyalty Index for the first quarter of 2003. “Whether or not red is the color of the moment is not really the issue,” said Brand Keys president Robert Passikoff. “You look for a logo to engender recognition, and 74 percent is extraordinarily high.”

When told of the robust recognition engendered by Target’s logo, Zandl widened her critical lens. “The Target ads don’t seem whimsical or spontaneous anymore,” she said. “You can almost sense how hard they’ve worked at it. They may be thinking about reinventing their advertising — and if they’re not, they should be,” Zandl added.

Brand Keys’ Passikoff rejected that claim, though, stating: “There’s a big difference between what happens to be fashionable and what happens to be effective.”