Target has become the target. Headquartered in Minneapolis, the retailer is weathering a PR storm focused on the corporation's donation of $150,000 to a political action committee called "Minnesota Forward."
That MN Forward backs Tom Emmer (watch its ad here), an anti-gay rights gubernatorial candidate is the problem, as Target has been an active sponsor and partner of Minnesota gay events such as Twin Cities Pride for many years.
Responding to critics, the brand insists it "supports causes and candidates based strictly on issues that affect our retail and business interests." But with threats of a boycott and consumer outrage, has Target misinterpreted what its "business interests" are?
Until now, Target's support for the gay community has been amply praised. The brand has received numerous awards, including a rating of 100% on the 2009 and 2010 Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index and it is a Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality. It also received the 2009 Rainbow Families Award and the 2009 Lavender Pride Award.
After gay employees expressed concerns to CEO Gregg Steinhafel, he issued an internal memo stating the brand's "unwavering support" for the gay community. He defended Target by pointing out this track record and its corporate commitment to diversity.
Target's track record may not matter to many consumers, who may see its words not lining up with its actions. More importantly, Target's support to a "pro-business" (anti-same-sex marriage, among other platforms) candidate is predicated on it being good for Target's "business interests."
Protests already include a Facebook page and an online petition. But if the recent Nike showdown is any indication, don't underestimate the power of the offended consumer.
As outrage continues to build, with the spillover damaging the Target brand, including putting its other operations at risk, such as the stores it is lobbying to open in San Francisco -- wouldn't its business interests, in fact, be put at risk?
Meanwhile, a report released today by MN Forward on its political donors also listed Best Buy, another major Minnesota-based corporation, as donating $100,000 to the group. But it's Target that has become a target in this situation.