Merchant Innovation

The Walmart Smiley Returns

Walmart Revives The Smiley Face

What's new is old, and what's old is new again. At the very least, that's what Walmart is hoping its shoppers will think when it brings an old friend back to hammer home the point of low, low prices.

Walmart Chief Marketing Officer Tony Rogers explained in a blog post on Wednesday (June 1) that the mega-retailer was taking a page from its own history books and bringing the smiley face logo of the early 1990s back to the forefront of its marketing materials. While the Smiley's original incarnation served to mark prices that had received the similarly defunct "rollback" discount, the motif will now be used to mark low-priced items in general — a move that Walmart and Rogers are hoping draws off the lingering cultural cache of the Smiley among consumers.

"We first introduced Smiley in 1990, and since then, he has been a widely recognized symbol for low prices," Rogers explained. "In fact, nearly 70 percent of our customers still associate Smiley with savings at Walmart, even though he’s been behind the scenes for the past decade."

Fortune also noted that while part of the decision to bring back the bright yellow emoticon was based on pricing, executives also wanted to capitalize on the emotional impact the image still seems to hold with shoppers as its stores continue a wider initiative to scrub the public image of the retailer.

“We are making real progress on the number of customers in our stores, on our sales promise, our ‘clean, fast and friendly’ scores,” Judith McKenna, chief operating officer of Walmart U.S., told employees. "When I’m out in stores, I can see that we’re getting better. We’re restoring pride back into our business.”

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