Target Corp. has promoted Rick Gomez to become its new chief marketer, a key role at the Minneapolis-based retailer that puts a premium on cultivating a hip image.
Gomez, who has been with Target since 2013 and is currently a senior vice president, will start in the position on Jan. 29.
He has big shoes to fill. He replaces Jeff Jones, who was Target’s chief marketing officer for four years before being tapped last summer to become president of Uber. During his tenure, Jones pushed Target to be more innovative. He also was a prominent figure in helping the company pick itself back up after a data breach in 2013 and the ouster of its previous CEO in May 2014.
Jones himself succeeded Michael Francis, a legendary marketer who is often credited with creating Target’s cheap-chic persona.
Gomez has been behind some of Target’s splashier initiatives, including its live music video with Gwen Stefani during the 2016 Grammy’s telecast and the marketing behind Target’s wildly successful Lilly Pulitzer designer collaboration in spring 2015. He has also been a big advocate of the retailer’s renewed efforts to conduct deeper customer research to help inform its strategies to drive growth in Target’s key categories of baby, kids, style and wellness.
“Rick has a deep understanding of the retail marketplace and brings an analytical, strategic and collaborative approach to the work he leads to reach our guests and drive the business,” Target CEO Brian Cornell said in a statement. “As our new chief marketing officer, Rick will build on Target’s history of world-class marketing to drive traffic, sales, guest loyalty and brand equity during a time of rapid retail change.”
Gomez — who previously worked at MillerCoors, Quaker Oats and PepsiCo — will become part of the senior executive leadership team that reports directly to Cornell.
Earlier on Thursday, Gomez announced Target’s new marketing push into soccer, a major shift of its sports marketing dollars after the retailer ended its 27-year sponsorship of IndyCar racing last year.
Target has signed on to become a partner of Major League Soccer and is also sponsoring the Minnesota United FC, a team that will wear prominent bull’s-eyes on its jerseys when it begins its inaugural season in the league this spring.
Under Gomez’s leadership, Target has also been stepping up its advertising to Latinos, a key demographic for the retailer.
During the most recent holiday season, Target increased its broadcasting spend for holiday ads by 21 percent in a campaign that featured a young Latina girl as a director rushing to put together a Broadway-style holiday musical with the help of Bullseye the dog. Its bigger investment included a 67 percent increase in ads on Spanish-language networks such as Univision and Telemundo.
“We’re leaning in even more as our guest is becoming more multicultural,” Gomez told the Star Tribune last fall. “We see that as an opportunity.”
The holiday spots also placed a bigger emphasis on touting Target’s promotions to help drive more traffic to its stores.
However, they weren’t enough on their own to convince more shoppers to go to Target amid fierce competition from Amazon.com and Wal-Mart.
Target said on Wednesday that traffic to its stores continued to decline in November and December, a period in which same-store sales dropped 1.3 percent.