John Quinn|Jun 16, 2015

I never would have considered going to Target to fill a prescription, but I would if there was a CVS pharmacist behind the counter dispensing the medication and answering my questions.

With this week’s big acquisition news – CVS buying 1,600 drugstores from Target – two Breakout Brands with a history of customer-centric innovation are coming together in what looks like a big win for both.

Target gets to offload a business line that was not performing as well as hoped, while potentially bringing new customers through its doors by offering expertise from the nation’s largest dispenser of prescription drugs, the biggest operator of health care clinics (the great Minute Clinic concept) and the second-largest pharmacy-benefits manager.

Meanwhile, CVS gets 1,600 new locations in 47 states, the chance to get in on a new Target “Express” concept targeting urban markets, and the cache of “rubbing brands” with a powerhouse retail brand that remains iconic in the U.S., despite some recent setbacks such as the failed Canada expansion.

And I think rubbing brands is where a great deal of the potential lies in this deal. In my mind, this acquisition is just as much about a mutual boost in brand equity and trust as it is about buying an expanded retail footprint and business volume or offloading an underperforming business line.

I believe there is a branding lesson to be learned in this acquisition: Despite the best laid business plans, sometimes the time and money investment of trying to stretch your brand identity to encompass new products or service lines can be more costly and less successful than forming a brand partnership with established experts.

In my case, I know that to be true. The fact that I wouldn’t consider a Target pharmacy as my go-to drugstore but would go into a Target to buy from a CVS-branded drugstore has nothing to do with the caliber of the current Target pharmacy operation.

The truth is I have no idea about the quality of their current pharmacy operations. They may have some of the best pharmacists in the country, but I would not have taken the time to find that out because the leap of faith was too far for me from a “brand belief” standpoint.

In other words, I wouldn’t trust the claim that Target can be as good with medicine as it is with things like smartly designed, low-cost home products. But with a CVS sign above the pharmacy counter, that brand belief obstacle is suddenly gone.

So my hat is off to both CVS and Target for their Breakout Brand moment – cutting a deal that adds value for customers of both brands and makes the financial analysts happy too. It’s inspiration for all of us in marketing communications to seek out the next big #BreakoutBrand solution to a business challenge.


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