Former Target Exec Gives Brand-Building Tips

Minda Gralnek addressed a crowd during the Tabletop Show.

Minda Gralnek addressed a crowd during the Tabletop Show.

Successful brand building goes hand-in-hand with great story telling.

So says Minda Gralnek, who spoke to tabletop executives at a breakfast seminar sponsored by Forty One Madison during the New York Tabletop Show last month. And as former vice president and creative director for Target, Gralnek knows a lot about story telling. Target carved out its niche as a fashion discount retailer by telling “an authentic brand story,” Gralnek said, and supported it with other strong brand stories, like those of Liberty of London, Missoni, Michael Graves and Isaac Mizrahi.

Memories are made in the dining room, according to Gralnek, so the tabletop category has a head start in positioning itself favorably in the consumer’s mind. Gralnek highlighted current trends and influences that tabletops executives can capitalize on to tell their own brand stories. They include the artisan movement (“it goes hand-in-hand with the farm-to-table movement,” according to Gralnek). “Artisan products give a sense of community and common good,” she said.

The “made in America” promise also ties in to telling an authentic story, and it is gaining strength, according to Gralnek, who now heads her own namesake marketing firm.

The former Target executive also cited the importance of the ongoing casual movement and the need for relatable, down-to-earth products; the importance of color because it provides cheer in uncertain times; the influence of architecture and its current focus on mid-century modern design and flat-pack houses; and the influence of various pop culture references on product development, including “Mad Men” and Lady Gaga, who maintains a Facebook page devoted to her tea cup collection. “This is a huge opportunity for anyone selling tea cups,” Gralnek said.

Gralnek also suggested a few marketing techniques, including making what’s old new again. For instance, Lady Gaga was photographed at a fashion runway show balancing an Old Country Roses tea cup on her knee. Be mindful of current events, Gralnek said, that reflect consumer sentiment; and use social media platforms to engage customers, not by merely promoting sales, but by personalizing the product and telling individual stories.