Wal-Mart launches campaign to repair image


    By Lorianne Flint

    Wal-Mart launched a national advertising campaign in an effort to repair its image and disprove allegations that it treats employees poorly and stifles competition.

    ?There are a lot of ?urban legends? going around these days about Wal-Mart, but facts are facts,? said Wal-Mart chief executive Lee Scott in a press release. ?Wal-Mart is good for consumers, good for communities and good for the United States economy. We want to get those myths off the table, set the record straight.?

    The multi-billion dollar company bought full-page ads in more than 100 newspapers, such as USA Today, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, to dispel rumors and illustrate Wal-Mart takes care of its employees and communities.

    The ad boasts Wal-Mart?s plan to create 100,000 jobs in the United States in 2005, provide excellent employee benefits and wages, and give economic support to communities. Scott said he wanted employees to feel better about their jobs and make the facts available to the public.

    However, BYU professor of advertising and marketing, Kathryn Egan, disagrees with the effectiveness of the strategy. She said the ad failed to meet Wal-Mart?s objective because it?s illogical and doesn?t provide enough facts.

    ?They?re throwing a lot of stuff at you that shows no empathy, no sympathy or dialogue by the people troubled,? Egan said. ?It?s a very poor piece of sophistry.?

    Tom Griffiths, a BYU communications professor, said the new ad is not reader friendly and people won?t respond well to it.

    ?It?s too text intensive,? Griffiths said. ?I don?t think people are going to plow through this. If there were fewer points, larger fonts and headlines, it would be easier to read.?

    BYU students agree with professors about the ineffectiveness of the campaign. Wayne Maness, 28, from Littleton, Colo. is a comparative studies graduate student who frequently shops at Wal-Mart. He said the campaign doesn?t change his opinions or his likelihood to buy its products. For him, the ad shows that Wal-Mart is a big company that is able to squash out competition.

    ?For me, it?s a negative campaign,? Maness said. ?It?s a weak attempt. The way to change people?s ideas is to show them what you?re about. Focus on the positive.?

    Maness isn?t alone in his interpretation of the campaign. Other BYU student?s agree the ads fail to persuade and will most likely not be noticed in newspapers.

    ?I?d probably flip to the next page,? said Jerry Hansen III, 25, from Rexburg, Idaho, a humanities graduate student. ?I don?t think I?d take the time to read it all. They?re trying too hard and it wouldn?t change my opinion.?

    Many people are aware of Wal-Mart?s negative image, but it doesn?t stop them from shopping at the nationwide store. Maness and Hansen both agree that as long as Wal-Mart has the lowest prices, they?ll continue to shop there.

    Peter Kanelos, head of Wal-Mart stores in Hawaii, Arizona and Southern California, said Wal-Mart helps the community because store taxes go to the city, which boosts the economy. Wal-Mart also said it provides competition, which benefits consumers because other stores will try to lower their prices too.

    ?Competition will lower prices everywhere and help consumers save money by being able to buy the lowest priced product,? Kanelos said.

    Wal-Mart corporate representatives said they want the public to learn the truth and create their own opinions based on the facts, not rumors. Those interested can learn more by going to www.walmartfacts.com.

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