Walmart: Friend or Foe?

Since the day I started business school, one of the biggest lessons was about WalMart. They are a brilliant company, there is no denying that. They are the largest retailer in the world; and they use that power well. WalMart has created an ecosystem of their suppliers and retailers, working together to serve their mission however they see fit. There is no way that a business person cannot commend them for this.

But consumers always seem to have such strong opinions when they see that big, yellow smiley face. I know a lot of people that love WalMart, in every sense of the word. I’ve never been to a WalMart, but only because I’ve never lived in a place where one was near. (I hear they have great deals on socks.) My point is, a lot of the people I know who won’t go anywhere else for a six pack of socks are women. Or minorities. Or anyone else that WalMart has reportedly hired screwed over its’ lifetime.

There is a flip side to that love – consumers also get angry when they hear the WalMart name. Documentaries have been made about how awful the organization really is. (I did have to watch that documentary in one of my business classes, after discussing the business’ brilliance.) These people protest, deny ever stepping foot in one of the chain stores, and criticize others for shopping there.

But do consumers actually care how “bad” WalMart is?

Women sue the company for massive amounts of money, and then the lawsuit is suddenly dropped. I know plenty of women that will still shop at WalMart. The same can be said for children caught in WalMart sweat shops – how many parents bring their kids into the stores because the clothes are cheap? It is understandable logic – as long as that same parent doesn’t preach about child labor laws.

I’m just wondering if all of this news REALLY affects the WalMart name. Consumers have hated them for years – and continually shopped there. Obviously business is booming for them. No problems on the home front.

Do they just have the most incredible PR team known to man? Or do consumers only pretend to care about corporate policy, and then turn their heads when socks are on sale for 3 for the price of 1?


Pop-Up to Gain Our Loyalty?

Organizations seem to be infinitely struggling with gaining consumers’ emotional loyalty and attachment. Since day one of business school, professors preach that consumers “love” brands. You are generally loyal to products such as deodorant, coffee, gum, and other convenience items. Consumers find a brand that works for them, and fits into their lifestyle, and they stick to it. There are usually no further purchase decisions made. In this battle of gaining trust and brand loyalty, companies seem to be doing absolutely everything in their power to gain the attention of current and potential customers. One of these widely accepted, brilliant (or not so brilliant) ideas was to run pop-up ads.

In the beginning stages of the Internet, pop-up ads were absolutely everywhere. You would close your browser window and have ten ads that had popped “under” your screen. Why companies thought that consumers would take the time to look at these ads after they exited their window, I never figured out. Most pop-ups seemed to disappear over time; moving to banner ads, and advertising on the background of entire webpages instead of disturbing the reader’s experience. But recently, pop-ups have begun to re-pop-up. Some ads are even disguised as banner ads; they are positioned at the top of the screen, but take so long to load that you get redirected to them if you scroll down too quickly. This is most noticeable on websites that provide news, when the user is involved in reading a story, and is disrupted suddenly by an ad that seems impossible to exit out of.

How does this relate to brand loyalty? I have never once known anyone to be browsing the Internet and say “Oh good, a pop-up ad! I LOVE getting interrupted to learn about the new flavor of Mountain Dew coming out next month!” Chances are, if I’m at the grocery store that night, and a pop-up ad for Mountain Dew appeared on my screen that day, I will not buy Mountain Dew. Firms generally believe that ads like this put their brand at top of mind; which is a great thing for them. And for some consumers, this little trick works. All they remember is that earlier in the day, they saw Mountain Dew; so they purchase it. However, for consumers like me, that consciously think about what brands are doing to gain my attention, it puts it at top of mind for negative reasons.

Making these ads difficult to close out of is not helping the companies’ case either. We have already been completely interrupted by your lack of creativity by using a pop-up ad; please at least have the courtesy to make it a simple task to exit out. This is not making me like your brand, enjoy your advertisement, or want to buy whatever it is you are selling. It actually does the opposite. I have a negative brand image every time I make a purchase decision in your category.

However, companies must be creating these ads for a reason. They clearly work on some level, and do make us think of their brand more often than not. As I said before, the consumer that simply remembers seeing the brand pop up on their screen while making a purchase decision is certainly more likely to choose that product. The fact that I mentioned Mountain Dew in my post is nothing but helpful to the Pepsi brand. These ads did wonders for consumers that were experiencing the Internet for the first time, and probably do still work on older generations.

I do not think that people in Generation Y appreciate pop-up ads at all. I certainly don’t think we have considered them useful. Gen Y has a reputation of not trusting organizations; they have to fight the hardest to gain our attention and loyalty, because we would rather support the little man than buy into Pepsi. Most people in our generation firmly believe that corporations get too many tax breaks, make too much money, and don’t give enough back. So I say that the corporations give us at least the respect to drop the pop-up act; we deserve better. We deserve more creativity, more time, and something that actually will increase my brand loyalty.