at the intersection of brands, media and culture

Brand rejuvenation, without even trying

In Branding, Brands, culture on December 12, 2008 at 3:02 am



Workers place the final “S” of the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Waveland, Mississippi
Originally uploaded by cabraham

Brand consultants love to present analogues of the hip, cool companies that have transformed their category.  Target, Apple, BMW Mini, Prius, Dyson, Cirque du Soleil. It becomes sort of a circularly successful argument. Consultants want to work on cool brands, they convince their client that they could be a cool brand by pointing at other cool brands that they had worked on.

I remember having some conversations with Wal-Mart a few years ago. It was during the big Target surge and at least half of the room wanted to go into chase mode and start the style revolution from Bentonville. As the heads shook, there was some steep dissent from those who wanted to stick to the guns, noting that they were far more profitable than Target and that they owned a compelling proposition.

Today, it looks like Wal-Mart did the right thing. They stuck with their price centric positioning and only slightly moved toward a benefit orientation from “everyday low prices” to “save money, live better.” Yes, they also put in some wood paneled flooring and such, but as Wal-Mart has proven, if you own low-prices credibly you will always be in consideration. And increasingly in this economy, they are winning share of the wallet because price trumps cool.

No, they aren’t quite as hip and edgy as Target, but they continue to be far more profitable. Had they done what most marketing consultants would have recommended, they would likely be in a poorer situation today. It’s just a nice reminder that at the end of the day branding isn’t about making a brand hip and cool. It is about making it relevant and enduring. Right now Wal-Mart is looking pretty relevant.

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