Can’t Wait to Meet You, Neighbour: Spelling and Grammar Are Political

Over at The Editing Company, I’m blogging about Target, the letter “u,” and the power of words.

The word “neighbour” wasn’t chosen merely to fit with the how-d’ya-do tone of Target’s Canadian promotional activities. The little “u” in the distinctly Canadian word serves a political purpose. We don’t want to take your culture away from you, Target is saying (or wants you to think it’s saying). We want to be a part of it! Imagine the outrage if Target had announced how pleased it was to meet its Canadian “neighbors” and to become a major “center” for shopping.

Whatever your opinion about Target’s entry into Canada—not to mention its labour practices—it’s hard to deny that Target has their marketing down to a science. Despite Black Friday protests, multiple allegations of sweatshop use, and an “F” from the NAACP for their treatment of people of colour (source), Target has maintained a squeaky-clean image, at least compared to their biggest competitor. 

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Target also has a level of cultural cachet that Walmart is beyond ever achieving. It’s a source of pride to score a great deal on a cute dress at “Tar-jay,” but head to Walmart on a bad hair day and you risk finding yourself on a certain exploitative, racist, classist, fatphobic, horrible blog that shall not be named or linked to. 

So I’m not entirely surprised that Target’s Canadian marketing campaign is—I’ll say it—a work of art. The “Neighbour” campaign appeals not only to our use of the British (correct) spelling, but also our sense of friendly hospitality. Who are we to turn away a visitor? Plus, OMG LOOK AT THE DOGGIE!

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Coincidentally, a couple of hours before this post went up, I saw a Facebook update from Dairy Queen Canada claiming that if you don’t measure distance in “kilometers,” you’re not really Canadian. Ahem. Just another reminder (in case you needed one) that marketers need to be editors, too. 

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