Walmart homes in on family, community in first ad push for Walmart+

Linda J. Dodson

Table of Contents

Dive Brief:

  • Walmart announced the first advertising campaign for its new online membership service, Walmart+, in a blog post by U.S. Chief Marketing Officer William White.
  • Called “A Different Kind of Membership,” the multichannel effort features a diverse cast of 22 real families and focuses on how Walmart+ opens up new opportunities for them to bond together and with the community at large. It was created with husband and wife filmmaking duo Daniel and Katina Mercadante, who followed COVID-19 safety guidelines during an extensive in-person shoot.
  • The campaign is one of Walmart’s largest this year, spanning broadcast, digital, social media, radio and experiential channels, with the first 60-second ad airing around NFL season kickoff Thursday night. Launching Sept. 15, Walmart+ attempts to seize on a pandemic-driven e-commerce boom and give Walmart a stronger edge against competitors like Amazon.

Dive Insight:

Unsurprisingly, Walmart is putting considerable marketing muscle behind the rollout of Walmart+ as it looks to keep up momentum in online sales and raise consumer awareness for its new membership service ahead of the critical fourth quarter and holiday shopping period.

Creative messaging in the campaign makes an emotional appeal to families, emphasizing the value of spending more time with loved ones and the community and how Walmart+ can enable greater flexibility through a focus on convenience. The angle was informed by internal data that show the average family spends 2.5 hours per week — or 130 hours per year — shopping, an activity that distracts from what really matters and one that has also taken on new risks related to the health crisis.

“Time is life’s most precious gift. We all have it, but none of us have enough of it,” CMO White, who joined Walmart from rival Target in April, wrote in his post. “Our hope is that by being a Walmart+ member, you’re able to spend more time being the most important member — a family member, a community member and a member of humanity.”

Produced with an award-winning filmmaking duo under restrictions related to the pandemic, “A Different Kind of Membership” was assembled from over 100 hours of unscripted footage and 30 hours of interviews with subjects. It marks the brand’s first documentary-style advertising, a bid at communicating authenticity with viewers.

Walmart is blanketing several channels as part of its push, including some that have seen broad pullbacks during the pandemic. On the experiential front, for instance, the big-box retailer is creating activations that “plus up” customers’ lives and let them recreate activities they enjoyed doing before the pandemic shut down many venues.

As part of the “Plus Me Up” portion of the campaign, Walmart will surprise a frontline healthcare worker and their family, offering them the chance to be the lone fans in attendance at an NFL game this season. The moment is captured in footage that will air around NBC Sports’ Sunday Night Football program.

Officially unveiled last week after months of lead-up, Walmart+ costs $98 a year, though it debuts with a free trial period. The membership service taps into the retailer’s extensive network of 4,700 physical stores, including 2,700 locations that offer same-day delivery. In its pricing structure and promise of unlimited delivery, Walmart+ mirrors aspects of Amazon Prime, though Walmart has resisted billing the two as direct competitors — a positioning some analysts see as valid despite the similarities.

“Walmart’s strategy with Walmart+ isn’t about competing against Amazon or Amazon Prime first and foremost. There are plenty of consumers who shop at both Walmart and Amazon for different reasons, including product assortment,” Meyar Sheik, president and chief commerce officer at Kibo, said in comments shared via email. “Walmart is smartly leveraging its massive brick-and-mortar presence to deliver the best possible shopping experience, fusing the e-commerce world with the convenience of your local and familiar Walmart store.”

Walmart+ follows several e-commerce bets that have not played out for the retailer, including and online lingerie seller Bare Necessities, both of which were offloaded last month. Earlier this year, Walmart discontinued, another victim of the company’s mission to focus more on its core business areas and improve efficiency.

Still, the pandemic has reinforced the considerable opportunity Walmart has to grow in e-commerce. The company’s online sales nearly doubled in the second quarter compared to the year-ago period, after jumping 74% year-on-year in the first quarter, toward the start of the health crisis. With the large awareness campaign and a name tied closer to the brand, Walmart+ could gain considerable traction in the early running.

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