What Marketers Can Learn from #AlexFromTarget

Nisha Mathur Mobile, Social Media Leave a Comment

Image: Instagram

If you don’t know who #AlexFromTarget is, my first guess is that you’re not female in the 15-30 demographic. Alex from Target is the latest Internet sensation after a young girl posted a photo of an attractive young man bagging groceries at Target. The photo quickly went viral, amassing over 800,000 tweets in the first 24 hours alone.

A week after this photo surfaced, the real Alex from Target currently has 709,000 followers on Twitter. He’s been on the Ellen Degeneres Show, and is now reportedly receiving offers from Hollywood talent agencies. For advertisers, there is a deeper message, beyond the accidental and outrageous fame of this young man. Mobile advertising is now a $40 billion dollar industry. A few years ago, we merely dignified mobile advertising with the word “potential.” Now, native ads and viral outburst are a force in their own right.

We’re able to quantify how we’re using technology these days. According to comScore, in January, Americans used smartphone and tablet apps more than PCs to access the Internet. It’s the first time that has ever happened. Studies also show iPad usage is heaviest at morning and night. The work we do may still be on a PC, but everything in between is mobile. You can’t stand in an elevator without someone pulling out their cell phone for the few seconds it takes to reach their floor.

Channeling Emotion

So how can we, as Advertisers, capitalize on mobile connection and spontaneous engagement? We can’t control what goes viral, but we can learn what stirs emotions and feeds interest.

People love an impression that they can personally connect with. An attractive kid at a big-box store feeds people’s emotions. While Target representatives were quick to note that they had no involvement with the massive outbreak of the photo, they did use this as an opportunity to publicly comment on how proud they are of their employees.

From designers like Nate Berkus to Altuzarra, we have names that elicit a positive emotion. They have great products and trendy options to keep us engaged and coming back for more. Humanizing your brand on social media can amplify your core message with loyal consumers and attract new folks to your brand.

Go Where Your Consumers Are

Where does our audience spend their time? Who does our audience look up to and want to mirror? Savvy businesses are investing time in understanding these questions and adapting their communication efforts as consumer behavior evolves.

Get ready for snaps! Add us on #Snapchat: Starbucks A photo posted by Starbucks Coffee ☕ (@starbucks) on

The Starbucks holiday cup is a great example of this idea in action. Instagram posts and Mobile App notifications let customers know about the arrival of seasonal drinks and the Starbucks red cup in stores, stirring emotions about the holiday season. They took it a step further this year by posting an Instagram of the Snapchat logo holding two Starbucks Red Cups, officially announcing the launch of their Snapchat Account, to which one Instagram user notes, “My life in one picture.”

The constant refreshing of email, Instagram, and Twitter suggests that you don’t have to move so far outside your platform of choice, but you do have to engage customers appropriately.

Your audience is continually searching for new ideas and emotional connections. With mobile technology offering brands and consumers an opportunity to develop a more intimate, continuing dialogue, it’s a worthy investment to keep a pulse on the evolving mobile habits of your consumers. Consumers will lean towards experiences they can relate to, and brands can be there to make them feel a sense of connection.

Nisha Mathur is a guest contributor, where she covers events about society and culture. Her work has appeared in Elite Daily and Examiner, and she holds dual degrees in Communications and Sociology from the University of Illinois.