On April Fool’s day I thought I should blog about something that involved a “joke” – in this case the joke’s on Target.
When the popular U.S. discount retailer (commonly pronounced “tar-jay”) announced its plans to enter the Canadian marketplace I’m sure shoppers were jumping for joy. And, I’m sure Target was too, eying the lucrative Canadian market and what this expansion could mean for its bottom line.
Then they hit a stumbling block – their name, which they didn’t have trademarked in Canada – oops! To add insult to injury, another prominent clothing retailer – Fairweather – is claiming rights to the name, which it has been using for its Target Apparel brand and stores since 2005.
As a (Canadian) marketer who’s been involved in several trademarking exercises, this came as a bit of a surprise to me…that Target didn’t seem to have done its homework initially by filing for the trademark more broadly geographically – at least to include North America (i.e. Canada). I know the cost of trademarking a brand/name can be quite expensive, but you’d think that this would have been part of the plan, knowing that the two countries share a border. I wonder whether this would have happened if the tables had been turned and it was a Canadian brand, which typically would have included the U.S. in the parameters of its trademarking process? In my trademarking undertakings, this has in fact typically been the case – thinking beyond the Canadian border.
I wonder, is this another example of the stereotypical U.S. ignorance when it comes to Canada (i.e. everything stops at the 49th parallel)? Is it a bad business decision coming back to haunt the retailer? Or is it perhaps a question of arrogance? Whatever the case, it will be interesting to see what this does to the timing of Target’s Canadian expansion plans. And, if the name won’t cut it in Canada, will Target be able to achieve the same success under a different name/brand? Arguably the power is in the Target brand name and what it stands for.
Hmm…very interesting indeed. What do you think?