Taking Offense, Walmart Takes The Offensive

In an effort to get its “energized differentiation” flowing in a positive direction among the “opinion-leader” class, Walmart broke a $10-million image campaign titled “The Real Walmart” on the Kentucky Derby broadcast Saturday, Shelly Banjo reports in the Wall Street Journal

An accompanying website presents what it calls “The Real Facts” in more detail. “There are a lot of misconceptions about Walmart,” it says. “There's even a website that makes fun of people who shop with us.” (The link is not provided by Walmart itself, of course.) “Well, we want you to know the facts -- who shops with us and why.”



“We have wanted to do this for a long time because we know that people trust Walmart even more when they understand the opportunities we provide our associates, who the customers are that shop with us and how we deliver low prices,” the retailer’s U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon says in a statement. “Every month more than 60% of Americans shop at Walmart and we are proud to help them save money on what they want and need to build better lives for themselves and their families.”

“The Real Walmart” focuses on three areas, according to the release:

  • Helping Walmart customers succeed;

  • Helping Walmart associates succeed;

  • How Walmart's efficiencies and direct-from-manufacturer approach help deliver low prices.

The impetus for the campaign, Banjo informs us, is that “Walmart's ‘energized differentiation,’ an advertising term for the direction a brand is going based on consumer interest, loyalty and momentum, dropped 50% between 2011 and 2012 among college-educated adults, it said.” 

Okay, we’ll fess up. We’d never heard of “energized differentiation” either. It turns out to be a phenomenon identified by John Gerzema and Edward Lebar in their 2008 book The Brand Bubble: The Looming Crisis in Brand Value and How to Avoid It.

“Some examples of high energy brands include Adidas, IPhone, McDonald’s, Nike, Walmart, JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic,” reported J.D. Meier on his Sources of Insight blog in 2010. 

“Criticism over bribery allegations, worker protests and conditions at the foreign factories that make its goods,” Banjo writes, are responsible for reversing the mojo at Bentonville, however.

So what, exactly is this energy differentiation? 

“We found consumers were captivated by some brands because they weren’t just different -– they kept being different,” co-author Gerzema, chief insights officer at Young & Rubicam, told Emerald Insights’ Debbie Hepton. “This consumer perception of meaning, motion and direction is what we call energized differentiation. Energy itself is new and plays a significant new role in enhancing brand differentiation.” 

Gerzema goes on to define three components of Energized Differentiation: Vision, Invention and Dynamism, for which we will refer you to the Emerald Group’s website.

(Meanwhile Gerzema previews his recently published book with Michael D'Antonio, The Athena Doctrine: How Women (And Men Who Think Like Them) Will Rule the Future, in this TEDX talk. It’s about “how the most innovative people are deploying feminine strengths and values to recover from an economic and social crisis.”)

Back to the new campaign. One of the videos, “Meet a Real Walmart Associate,” addresses the workplace issues that have been nagging at the company’s image with the assertion that “working at Walmart means opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Nation blogger Josh Eidelson writes that “following a five-day organizing training and strategy summit in Birmingham, [Ala.], members of the labor group OUR Walmart will announce a plan to send civil rights movement–style caravans of workers from around country to converge at the retail giant’s June 7 annual shareholder meeting.” 

But historian Nelson Lichtenstein doesn’t think the planned protest will result in Walmart sitting down at a negotiating table with the group, telling Eidelson that “he doubts [OUR Walmart] has developed the ‘kind of self-sustained, internally generated organizing momentum’ that would be necessary for actions to spread to thousands of employees.”

Getting with the terminology, we take it that labor’s energized differentiation hasn’t gained sufficient mass.

Next story loading loading..