The 30-second TV spots show typical families and explain that on average, Wal-Mart saves families $2,500 a year. Asking shoppers to imagine what their family could do with that savings, one spot shows the family flivver veering off at an exit marked "Orlando." In another, a gruff, pickup-driving Dad makes a U-turn so his teenage son can look at a used car. A third focuses solely on gas prices, with shoppers agreeing that's it's just nuts to pay more for gas if you don't have to. "I'm a lot of things," a man remarks. "But I'm not crazy."
The company says the campaign centers on research from Global Insight, which shows the retailer now saves American families $2,500 each year, up 7.3% from $2,329 in 2004. That works out to more than $900 per person, and the company promises a state-by-state breakdown of savings within a month.
The retailer has created a Web site, SaveMoneyLiveBetter.com, which it plugs at the end of each spot, encouraging shoppers to submit their own savings stories. And it's also put up a "savings ticker" outside its Arkansas headquarters, to show "how much money American families save as a result of Wal-Mart's impact on communities."
The campaign comes at an interesting time for Wal-Mart. Not only has the company been struggling with disappointing sales results, it has taken steps to distance itself from earlier attempts to become somewhat more upscale. Recently, for example, it launched a new arsenal of financial service products, all aimed at very low-income shoppers.
While the new ads--the first major Wal-Mart campaign from The Martin Agency since it was hired last January--are warm and appealing, not everyone thinks they'll work.
"This campaign is a 100% guaranteed failure," says branding expert Rob Frankel, whose RobFrankel.Com is based in Encino, Calif. "It's not a brand strategy, it's a price claim. It doesn't do anything to encourage you to be loyal, and it's even insulting--people don't need to be told that it's a good idea to save money."
In fact, he says, emphasizing price adds to Wal-Mart's image problem. "To shop at Wal-Mart is almost the same as admitting you are poor," he says. "As soon as people can figure out a way not to shop at Wal-Mart, they do."
An additional disconnect, he says, is that that people's in-store experience of Wal-Mart won't necessarily mesh with the warm-and-fuzzy feeling created by the ads. "It's like, 'Whoa--you look a lot different in your pictures than when I met ya!"