It has been interesting seeing the different reactions to the Target marijuana story during the past few days.
Whatever you see on Target's website, they don't really sell marijuana, it seems. Neither do they sell crack cocaine nor methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA), or other interesting products and services as Boing Boing nicely points out complete with screenshots of pages on Target's website.
So the whole thing is a misunderstanding/mistake/e-commerce-thingy mixup (take your pick), doesn't matter, who cares. Well, one thing Target should do quickly, then, is talk to Amazon: find a way to fix whatever it is that produces those pages on Target's website. Robert French says it well:
Target’s site design does not take into account the things customers may search for … and they don’t consider those most embarrassing searches in developing the architecture and security of their site. Since their site is ‘run’ by Amazon.com, the embarrassment is shared by Amazon, too. Now, for a company that lives by the web - this is not good.
I don't think Target should dismiss all of this as readily as some bloggers are prepared to. This isn't about some blogs trying to take the high road as major influencers, as a few bloggers are saying.
It's about Target's reputation, one in which they take considerable pride as evidenced by information on their corporate website.
Equally, though, I can't imagine that Target would be happy with their customers, shareholders, employees or anyone else thinking that they sell drugs and sex-related products and services if they clearly don't. At the very least, the company is being ridiculed, in my view.
There's an opportunity now for Target to grab this story, refute it and then restate some of the elements from their business conduct guide (PDF). Reinforce those messages. Do it through the blogosphere primarily - that's where the story is currently hovering. If, as some bloggers are saying, there's little influence there, then Target have little to lose in so doing. I'd say they have a great deal to gain by so doing.
Target really can create a reputation advantage from this.
UPDATE 3 December: CNET News says Target is cool with rock 'n' roll, but not sex and drugs. Includes comments by Target and Amazon. (Thanks to Christopher Carfi for the tip.)