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Save money. Live boring. Walmart.

Although unconfirmed, there is rumored speculation in regard to a gravitational shift in the universe. Evidently, it is beginning to revolve around Bentonville, Arkansas – the headquarters of Walmart.

Is this related to the foretold 2012 “end of the world”? Who knows?

Will it affect Daylight Savings Time? Who cares?

One thing is for certain: Walmart – the faceless monument to capitalism, the scourge of small businesses everywhere – has taken over our world, one wallet at a time, and shows no signs of stopping its aggressive domination of our planet. Love it or hate it, if you have any hopes of acquiring a month’s worth of toilet paper for less than five dollars, you are left with scarce alternatives. My beef is this: if Walwart is to remain the center of civilization, it needs to look a bit better about doing it.


For a company that has the highest packaging budget in the history of anything – ever – they do a lousy job of showing it. Don’t get me wrong, the logo idea was an upgrade. It almost made me forget how much I love Target, but not quite. What drives me bonkers is the new Great Value brand packaging. This is the most uninspired store brand I have ever seen. It can actually make my kitchen look worse.  This is not “clean, minimalist” design. If that were the case, then it would consist of independently strong and well-thought layout & imagery. This line of packaging looks like it was outsourced to a fifth-grade art class – and in saying that, I hope I don’t offend any fifth-graders.

My advice for Walmart is simple: quit trying to build the perfect “un-brand”. You may boost your bottom line if the product was enhanced by appearance, not just by pricing. Give it a personality, because this line of products has me bored to tears.

Patrick King

Patrick is the Founder of Imagine and advisor to places on brand strategy and creative. His insights have been published in Inc. Magazine, SmartCEO, Washington Business Journal, The Washington Post, and Chief Marketer, among other publications, and shared at conferences throughout the US. He also has an amazing sock collection.


  • Victor H. Mata says:

    While the old GV brand identity may have been dated, at least it had color; it played well with others on the shelf. This current design screams “GENERIC” in a way reminiscent of, well, generic packaging of the early 80s. This is not a compliment, Wal-mart.

    Which begs the question: why couldn’t they carry the new store branding through to the GV brand?

  • Kimberly says:

    right on! Their packaging is horrible.

  • Mike says:

    Ugly, yes… But here’s the problem with trying to make Walmart prettier: There are two types of shoppers: those for which cost is the highest priority, and those for which atmosphere and brand identity is higher priority. Ultimately, do Target and Walmart really offer different products? No, there are just people who don’t mind a red bulls-eye on their counter but would be embarrassed if others knew they shopped at Walmart.

    I would bet money that the low quality branding is, in fact, deliberate. Especially in the current economy, more people are looking for ways to save money. Doesn’t budget-minded packaging attract people who want to save an extra 50 cents wherever they can?

    I’m not suggesting that Target shoppers are vain, but the demographics will show that Walmart doesn’t really care about people who would pay more for a little flash. FY2008. $99 BILLION net profit. Does their bottom line need some branding help?

  • Regina says:

    I don’t really care what food packaging looks like. It’s not like cosmetics and beauty products, which many people display on their bathroom shelving. I don’t see how it can make a kitchen look worse unless you are in the habit of displaying food products on your counters. I’m way more concerned with what’s inside the packaging–and I can’t help having doubts that the food is of good quality.

  • Dwayne Williams says:

    Walmart has a bigger threat to competition than to the design community. Here is my prediction . . . product by product and brand by brand, Walmart’s new “Great Value” house brand will begin to kill weaker brands so they are the only low-cost choice. Then after they have accomplished that, they will squeeze the major brands into pricing strategies that will also significantly erode their market share and eventually drive them out of business. In another five to ten years there will essentially only be “BIG BROTHER WALMART”. They will then be able to charge consumers whatever they want. In the meantime, enjoy the “Great Values” because they won’t be a great value when we are left with no alternatives.

  • This article is saying what I am sure some of us have thought about. People do not see the “Greater Value” label as an appetizing one. And you would think that with a shopping giant such as Wal-Mart, that they could do alot better. The branding looks cheap, which to some, may have an adverse affect on the quality of the brand. To me, this is similar to Costco and Sams Club.

  • Michael Jones says:

    Really are we beefing about Wal-Marts packaging. I think they made it bland
    as possible intentionally. I mean they are playing to their demographic.
    Do the people at Walmart care that their food has a fancy look to it or are they
    more interested that it may be a few coins cheaper than the name brand. If they
    wanted a fancy packaging they would go to Whole Foods or Wegmanns or any other
    ‘high-end’ grocery. Now on the other hand I am not a fan of the new Giant
    grocery logo here in the DC area which changed from the large G to the froot
    loops cereal bowl catastrophe.

  • Cindy Engquist says:

    “Ho-hum.” That’s what I think of generic brand representation generally. Here’s the thing — virtually all generic “brands” are badly represented visually and in name. And very often, the product inside the packaging is less than quality. Over the years, I’ve purchased the generic version of brand name products at many different retail stores, and the quality of the product is consistently bad. I’ve never bought a generic product whose quality I thought was good. Now, I only buy generic products when I’m feeling particularly broke.
    I believe that generic products are produced in manufacturing facilities that supply to many different brands. Remember the generic peanut butter fiasco when a factory’s tainted product went to retailers and they had to put out an alert that many generic brands were affected.
    Retailers are not necessarily expecting (or probably even wanting) their generic brand to represent their retail brand. More and more, retailers are shifting away from putting their retail brand name on the generic products. Instead, they are renaming their generic brands so that the retail brand name is no longer on the products. Thus, Wal-Mart has removed it’s name and replaced it with Great Value. I believe this is a smart move. If I were a retailer, I would not want to compromise consumers’ perceptions of my name/brand by putting it on a package containing an inferior product.

  • Calvin Warr says:

    Nice one! Some people are confusing mass marketing with mass idiocracy… :p

  • Timothy says:

    Cindy, I’m not sure where you got your information. Walmart has never had its name on its ‘generic’ brand of products. It has always been “Great Value” (and/or “Sam’s Choice”). With regards to generic versus brand name products, most products are made with the same ingredients (maybe off by a couple of units for patent protections), in the same factories by the same machines. The difference? The packaging. Brand names cost 20 cents more because there is advertising involved. Generics? Zero advertising cost. What is in a package anyway? Why are we so caught up with what Walmart’s generic brand logo and packaging look like? Rather than being critical of its visual appeal to our preferred tastes, shouldn’t we (as marketing and other business professionals) be trying to figure out what creative marketing/branding strategy this company is implementing that is OBVIOUSLY working? As rightfully stated by Patrick & others, Walmart is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, they continue to grow (thanks to their genius, so-called “bland” branding strategy) and capture market share across the board despite less than stellar economic conditions. As marketers, I believe we should be looking beyond our own creative confines and conforming to the appeals of the customers served by our clients (and strong competition). Isn’t that what being creative is all about?

  • Great discussion guys – plenty of fodd for thought (oops! sorry!).
    Personally, I steer clear of horrible packaging – it screams “cheap ingredients”, even if untrue.
    From a design perspective (and I am not a designer), it looks very bland; it says again “cheap and cheerful (but don’t be surprised if you get a stomach pain after ingestion).
    I love interesting design and good-quality, well-priced goodies inside! Too much to ask?

  • Great discussion guys – plenty of food for thought (oops! sorry!).
    Personally, I steer clear of horrible packaging – it screams “cheap ingredients”, even if untrue.
    From a design perspective (and I am not a designer), it looks very bland; it says again “cheap and cheerful (but don’t be surprised if you get a stomach pain after ingestion).
    I love interesting design and good-quality, well-priced goodies inside! Too much to ask?

  • Patrick,

    I am not certain what your “beef” is with WalMart, but I am sensing that it has nothing to do with their new packaging. Instead, I am sensing that your issue is with their domination in the marketplace, and that there generic packaging is symbolic for not only the product but service which they provide.

    If you look at their packaging solely, you’ll see a dramatic improvement over the GV packaging of the past. Just like the store logo which you allude to, this new imaging is meant to maintain the interest of the mid/upper class patrons who’ve visited the store in the recent economic downturn. Focus groups which we conduct show a dramatic improvement for such populations to not only consider purchasing such items that are packaged in clean/bright colors, but also repeat purchases if the taste is present as well.

    Do you really care what the packaging looks like? It sounds like you’d have a difficult time chewing on anything that comes from WalMart to me!

    Sam Palazzolo
    Pathos Leadership Group

  • Patricia says:

    In Canada at least, this brand is going head to head with Loblaws/The Real Canadian Supertores no name brand.

    They have another “store” brand called Presidents choice which has nicer packagins and is slightly less than the national brands. But the no name brand is their focus now that we are in a recession. You think the new Great Value is bad? These are yellow packages iwith all lower case black letters. No pictures at all. Yet the product in most cases tastes the same or even better than the national brand and its sales have been steadily increasing during this economy.

    Walmart wanted to separate their “great value” brand from the national items by making them stand out. Prior to the change, there were instances in which the packages were very similar, making the distinction harder to notice and store shelves did not call attention to their product at all.

    Cheap packaging doesn’t mean cheap ingredients. Rather than cut down on the quality of the product, they cut down on the appealing packaging so that the product can be sold at a lower price point.

    And to Timothy’s point that we should pay more attention to what they do right, fiscal 2009 which ended on January 21 2009, Walmart had surpassed the $400 billion dollar mark in sales. So you can talk about how ugly the logo, and packaging are all you want. They are still the world’s largest retailer and one of the largest employers. They also give back a lot to the community, so I think more of us should try to learn from their formula, because somethign is obviously working.

  • Patricia says:

    oops, sorry for my typos, the word wrap wasn’t working and I couldn’t see all my words to check them.

  • Nicola says:

    First class weblog, kudos for discussing this post

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