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Global Domination, Always.

DLB asks: what is Wal-Mart’s new rebranding strategy really about?

I’m very late to the party with this one, but while shopping online recently, I noticed that Wal-Mart has updated its brand. The response so far seems cautious. Folks seem to like the new color scheme, the trendier font, and sentence case hyphen-less wordmark, but there is considerable confusion over the new glyph that replaced the five-pointed star in the logo.

The new Wal-Mart logo.

What is that thing? Some people think it’s a sun, or maybe an asterisk. Others are quick to point out its resemblance to a sphincter. Quite a range of interpretation!

It’s an unfortunate bit of abstraction, to be sure, but I think all the consternation about what the logo looks like misses the bigger question of why?

Wal-Mart has yet to offer much of an explanation about its new brand other than the usual PR boilerplate. It’s true that Wal-Mart needs a facelift to adjust to the changing tastes of American consumers, but I think there’s even more to this than just a refreshening aimed at the Target crowd.

Take a look at the old Wal-Mart logo.

The old Wal-Mart logo.

The previous wordmark, with a white star on a blue field, is an obvious nod to the American flag. Wal-Mart uniforms and buildings are blue with red accents and white lettering. This branding has been tremendously successful. Wal-Mart is synonymous with the USA — which is precisely why they rebranded.

Wal-Mart made the switch to something neutral because they are building a global brand. While the company has not had much growth in Europe, they are rapidly expanding in China and South America– two places where people probably don’t want to be looking at giant American flags while they shop.

Wal-Mart store in China.
Here, the old brand looks out of place.

While it might look like Wal-Mart’s marketers stumbled on the glyph, I bet they did their homework. I’d wager it’s difficult to design a symbol that’s benign across so many cultures.

Bonus: Watch this great visualization of the spread of Wal-Mart stores across the US. (then imagine the same thing happening all over the world.)

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NickAug 1, 2008

Comments on this post


Its a STAR of David. A hebrew Star. I say if people in other countries dont like our stars they should not shop there. Walmart has turned its back on “America” and has its sights set on worldly domination. It has become fat greedy and “too big to fail”. I try every day to find a new way to NOT have to shop there. Everything is cheaply constructed and made in Chinese sweatshops. Sam Walton would be ashamed what his American Company is doing to the world.
The ones in my town want to charge me to recycle my oil when I change it. Its as expensive as letting them change my oil but I wouldnt trust my car to a minimum wage walmart employee. You have to find a manager, have her unlock the gate, weigh the oil, and fill out a very detailed form. Its a real hastle there. I havent seen a walmart employee in probably two years who looked happy.

Robert Raliff at 3:00pm on Sun, Apr 3rd.


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