Messing with Wal-Mart's branding

News & Politics

Here's an interesting twist of events in Wal-Mart's ongoing PR battle, thanks to the wave of activism that's kicked up in the last year. It would seem that they're making that ubiquitous Smiley -- the one who wantonly slashes prices as workers are signing up for state healthcare and Mom-n-Pop stores across town are closing -- a little less visible in their ads. From the Wall Street Journal (paid reg. req'd):

The "Save More, Smile More," ad, for instance, didn't scream Wal-Mart's low prices. Instead, it focused on well-priced products, with low-key smiles part of the landscape -- whether on a baby or in soapsuds. "With that ad, it moves from Wal-Mart smiling at you to the customer smiling," says Wal-Mart spokeswoman Gail Lavielle.

Right. But that's a pretty big move, taking the smiley from careening across TV screens and print ads to just sort of hanging out somewhere in the background, isn't it? It sure is:
Smiley's demotion has been undertaken with little fanfare, but it is a big deal nonetheless. Wal-Mart employees have grown accustomed to the character, which Wal-Mart reintroduced each year with different themes: Zorro Smiley, Cowboy Smiley, even Ms. Smiley. Yet he had become a bit of a distraction because of his popularity with another group: Wal-Mart's critics. Among recent unauthorized parodies of Smiley, a marketing poster for an anti-Wal-Mart documentary last year featured a rampaging Smiley in a business suit.(emphasis mine)

Might the Big Blue be running scared again from a little film that happened to break records (like appealing to die-hard conservatives) across the US and Europe, hmmmmmmmm?

In other Wal-Mart news, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (arguably the second-most powerful person in the city) had some words recently about Big Blue's attempts to hit inside city borders. At a recent Crain's business breakfast where Wal-Mart executives were in attendance, Quinn had this to say:
"I don't want Wal-Mart in the City of New York unless they change their corporate behavior...It is well documented across the country that Wal-Mart frequently uses the public insurance programs of the cities they are in as their own health insurance programs. We can't put that additional strain on our Health and Hospitals Corp., which is working as hard as it can to take care of uninsured New Yorkers."

Go, Christine, go!

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