Saturday, October 25, 2008

Brand identity analysis with Wal-Mart

I love Wal-Mart, I think it’s a great retailer and a terrific example of good, old fashioned marketing. Great brand too and I love the direction it’s now being taken into sustainability and environmental stewardship. Seriously, stop laughing!

It’s also a good case study to analyze brand values (core values, extended values, and the brand essence). It also helps to have written about Wal-Mart for an assignment in my brand management class and getting the class’s top grade on the assignment! So let’s dissect their identity:


Now their core values are easy to pin down, Start thinking about what they stand for, their lasting, permanent qualities of the brand that it stands for and cannot live without.

What are Wal-Mart’s core values?

  1. Customer empowerment. Wal-Mart helps their customers lead better lives. The always low price guarantee is a statement of the brand’s ‘you first’ belief.
  2. Customer satisfaction. Superior value for customers with satisfaction guaranteed. Wal-Mart stands behind their products to a degree that I’m not sure many other retailers their size can approach. As clichéd as it may seem, when you buy an item at Wal-Mart, you’re really buying a guarantee of satisfaction.
  3. Price leadership. Strong differentiation from competitor brands based on low prices. Wal-Mart’s brand is truly inseparable from its price.

Core values are things that every company employee would be able to tell you about the brand without missing a beat. You ask them, ‘what does your brand stand for?’, ‘what kind of person is your brand?’ Another useful question is the Mars Approach, which posits ‘if you were to take employees from the company and have them open a store on Mars, what are the qualities you want them to take there?’


The extended identity is not quite core, not quite ephemeral. The identity is broader, still relevant, but flexible. Here is where new values come into the brand sphere and are adopted through legitimate and sincere actions taken by the company.

What are Wal-Mart’s extended values?
  1. Community responsibility. Wal-Mart acts responsibly in its customers’ communities. Forget about claims that Wal-Mart shuts our local merchants and kills Main St. (however true this may be!). Stores are active focal points in the community and the company takes a responsible approach to integrating themselves into the community-lives of their customers.
  2. Personality. Employees personify Wal-Mart’s friendly, helpful, and approachable brand. As often as we’ve all had confused and distant responses from Wal-Mart employees to ordinary questions such as ‘where are the lightbulbs?’, brand personality is a quality Wal-Mart strives to emphasize
  3. Environmental sustainability. Wal-Mart utilizes green and energy-efficient practices. This is an important new concept for them, especially with the opening of new greenfield Supercenters and renovations to existing stores.


So, Ok. There’s the values. But what gives these values gravity and context? Is there anything arming Wal-Mart holistically to create a strong and supportable unique value proposition? That is to say, what does Wal-Mart really mean?

This rhetorical question is key to understanding the brand essence.

Wal-Mart’s brand essence is ‘
value for life’, a phrase that captures the soul of the brand: value in the price and quality of goods sold and the comprehensive selection offered at Wal-Mart stores.

Ultimately, the brand bullseye supports a relationship a brand develops with its customers founded on a unique value proposition. Wal-Mart’s relationship with customers is that they are family and the company strives to treat them with respect and give them an honest shopping experience with satisfaction guaranteed. Wal-Mart succeeds because through these key brand values and the brand essence, Wal-Mart customers understand the price, convenience, and empowerment benefits that the brand gives them. Shopping smart gives customers personal satisfaction knowing that they are getting good value for themselves and their family.

This post has likely caused a lot of eye-rolling and skepticism from readers but doing a brand value analysis is not about ripping into a company’s operations, their corporate strategy, or performance. I’m a marketer and I’m good at understanding consumer behavior, not supply-chain logistics. Brand value analysis is about image and trying to pin down what exactly makes them successful with customers. I’m not even a Wal-Mart customer but for this company, its brand values are crystal clear.

1 comment:

Johana said...

WalMart is slated to not only outperform its rivals, but grow its sales and remain profitable in the face of recession and declining consumption.