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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Walmart's Brilliant Illusion: Making Communications Look Like Operations

This article in today's NY Times has got my panties in a twist. Because while I hate Walmart (I've been in many times, but always refuse to spend any money) I actually think this bit of trickery is a really smart move on their part. They've undertaken an effort to "help out" local businesses in urban neighborhoods where they want to build new stores. This "help" will come in the form of co-op advertising, in-store advertising, and education/training programs to teach local business owners how to compete. Read the article for the full lowdown.

Point here is that for a relatively low out of pocket cost to Walmart, much of which is concentrated in communications tactics, they are giving the appearance of actually doing something to help out the local businesses they are accused of driving out of business. Basically, this is a communications strategy dressed up as something much bigger and more significant. And I think its pretty smart. They're making a very inexpensive change that will probably sound pretty significant to the average consumer. We'll see how well it works out for them, but I have a feeling it may actually do them some good. Which I hate.


AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

then you'll hate this announcement, too:
Wal-Mart to Open 50 Stores in High Crime Areas

NEW YORK (April 5, 2006) - Wal-Mart is expanding into impoverished areas. In a speech at the Newspaper Association of America's annual convention in Chicago on Tuesday, CEO Lee Scott said the company will build more than 50 stores in neighborhoods with high crime or unemployment rates, on sites that are environmentally contaminated, or in vacant buildings or malls in need of revitalization. These new stores are expected to create between 15,000 and 25,000 jobs, many of which will be in minority communities, and generate more than $100 million in state and local tax revenue for the communities. “Wal-Mart has never been afraid to invest in communities that are overlooked by other retailers,” Scott said. “This is a commitment to reach beyond our stores, to further engage the community, and to offer an even greater economic boost to people and neighborhoods that need Wal-Mart the most.” Ten of those stores will anchor "Wal-Mart Jobs and Opportunity Zones" that will help local businesses by providing $500,000 in grants for small businessas well as free advertising in local newspapers and exposure on Wal-Mart's in-store television network for up to five local business each quarter.

AKI SYSTEMS 2600 said...

i don't particularly hate wal-mart any more than any entity focused on global expansion...i do, however, typically hate my in-store experience at wal-mart -from wayfinding to check-out, customer service, returns, etc. but i will give wal-mart a slight point for ADDRESSING THE COMPLAINTS. could it be that they realise that it is more profitable to be liked and supported than to be hated and obliged. perhaps the hactivism is working and they are simply evolving as we demanded. still undetermined.

Mnels said...

Have to chime in on Target as an equal opportunity basher. When my kids were babies, I noticed that Target stores in poor neighborhoods actually charged more for necessities like diapers and formula. These stores certainly have higher losses to account for, but please. Baby food for crying out loud.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is a low-cost PR move from Walmart that they're using to bolster their image. CEO Lee Scott is a smart dude---from the slicker ads, to hiring the former president of Sierra Club as an environmental consultant, to this recent PR stunt that you brought to my attention---Walmart is remaking itself over for the new world, while still steamrolling everything in their path. Is one of the things that they'll "teach" their competitors is how to import countless "goods" from China and undersell their competitors? How can an independently-owned small business sell products at such a low price that they can't even afford to pay their rent? I'm sorry, Walmart's downside is still bigger than its upside to me.