Americans Love to Love or Hate Wal-Mart

Discussion
Jun 23, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson


In the red state/blue state reality of a polarized America, Wal-Mart was ranked in a survey of 1,133 adults commissioned by Ad Age for being the second most and least trustworthy company in the U.S.


Seems when it comes to Wal-Mart, it’s either a case of loving it or leaving it.


Wal-Mart spokesperson Tara Stewart told The Morning News that those who believe the company to be among the most worthy of trust find its messages to be credible for one because its advertising uses “real, unscripted associates and customers to tell their own stories.”


As to those who do not trust messages coming out of Bentonville, she said, “The challenge is to try and understand what’s driving those who give us low marks,” she said. “As a company, we’re always driving ourselves to do better; and if these comments are based on personal experience, we have to ask ourselves what we could be doing differently.”


Brad Johnson, an editor with Ad Age, said, “If you dig more deeply in the data, the people who feel strongest and best about Wal-Mart tend to be lower income, less educated. And people who feel most negatively tend to be affluent and educated.”


Moderator’s Comment: Is America really more polarized along economic, ethnic, religious, political and other lines than it has been in the past? What
does this mean for consumer product marketers and retailers?

George Anderson – Moderator

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7 Comments on "Americans Love to Love or Hate Wal-Mart"


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Ben Ball
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

Amen Ryan.

This issue is more correctly described, from a historical perspective, as “red blood / blue blood.” It all started with Ulster Plantation and it won’t ever go away. Regardless of whether economic conditions of the two groups are merging or diverging, the historical schism of values is still there. Better financial conditions for the “red bloods” simply quiets things for a while.

Warren Thayer
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
I also agree with Ryan. As this polarization, at least along economic lines, continues, it’s more necessary than ever to define your offering and your mission, and stick by it with intelligence and guts. Most folk won’t even attempt “stack it high and sell it cheap,” having left that turf to Wal-Mart if they have any real sense. So we’re likely to see the crowd converging on “service, upscale niches” and all that. The smartest and best-run retailers are already doing that. By the time that turf gets too crowded and late-comers and underperformers start dropping out, it’ll probably be time to check the relative health of Wal-Mart and see if there are genuine opportunities to find a different line of attack against them. Through it all, I remain an unabashed Wal-Mart fan. They were the only ones to cut to the chase when it came to ECR two decades ago, they invested smartly in technology, they play few games with their vendors, and they fulfill a customer need. I think it’s their scale that… Read more »
Jeff Weitzman
Guest
Jeff Weitzman
15 years 8 months ago

Bernice, to answer your last question about conformity: No, I don’t think conformity will ever go out of style. Most people do want to eat, drink, and wear what most other people eat, drink, and wear. That’s what makes places where that isn’t true rather exciting. The conformity extends to politics and it touches on the Wal-Mart experience. I am far from the best person to draw the lines between socio-economic factors, education, and shopping at Wal-Mart, but it is not surprising that those lines seem to fall where they do. Our country’s founder created a representative democracy precisely because they believed that not everyone had what it takes to govern, and they built in protections for minority viewpoints precisely because they knew most of the population would do whatever they thought everyone else was doing.

M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
15 years 8 months ago

Ryan couldn’t be more wrong (this is the “Doc, you ignorant slut” response). Are we more polarized today than during the “have and have-not,” pre-depression, mogul, captains of industry era? More so than in colonial days with indentured servants, or antebellum days with slavery in full swing? More so than during prohibition? More so than when agriculture and small farms accounted for more than 80% of our population and GDP? More so than when thousands of immigrants were processed through Ellis Island daily? More so than when we were negotiating treaties with Native Americans? Not hardly. Not even close.

Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 8 months ago
Polarisation implies two opposite extremes but it feels like there are many more groups and perspectives than that, all pulling in their own directions at the moment. Far more so than when I left the US 35 years ago. At that time, one of my reasons was that I felt in such a small minority that none of the choices open to me either economically or politically seemed acceptable. (Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can call me what you will but I swear I did try to change things until I finally gave in to majority rule and took myself elsewhere.) Nowadays, my reasons for not coming back are similar but the opportunities for change seem less insurmountable. Largely because so many people are clamouring for so many different changes. They won’t all get what they want and I think there’s going to be a fair amount of pandemonium over the next few years but there seems to be a degree of disquiet in virtually every socioeconomic and cultural category in the country. I’m inclined to… Read more »
Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 8 months ago

The answer is, I think, we’re only slightly more polarized but exponentially more aware of the polarization. Sure, the current administration and its allies have done a great job flooding the media with “us” and “them” values arguments, but the truth is a sharecropper in Mississippi in 1960 wasn’t functionally living in the same country as a school teacher in Ohio let alone an ad exec in New Caanan. Hell, they were barely living on the same planet.

Karen Kingsley
Guest
Karen Kingsley
15 years 8 months ago

Once again, Ryan has succinctly summed it up neatly.

Unfortunately, politicians of all stripes are exacerbating the polarization of the country. And the more we talk about it, the more we seem to entrench ourselves into whichever position we began. If we can’t agree on how we feel about Wal-Mart, how are we to come to consensus over war, the economy or stem cell research?

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