The news that Wal-Mart will sell iPhones is a testament to the branding work done by The Martin Agency on Wal-Mart’s behalf.
The Wal-Mart brand transformation, roughly in the two years since Martin has had the account, is stunning. Of course Martin can’t take all the credit; branding must essentially be accomplished by company itself, not its agencies.
For me, it began when Wal-Mart responded to the healthcare issue by offering generic drugs, many of which the elderly depend on for their lives, for $4 a month.
Then Tom Friedman gushed over Wal-Mart’s amazing supply-chain-of-the-future in his best seller The World Is Flat. Turns out that Wal-Mart has a lot of admirable traits that won over even a progressive like Friedman, once he investigated. Turns out, Wal-Mart is very progressive in some important ways. (This must have made quite a dent in the way Friedman’s fans preceive Wal-Mart.)
It picked up steam with Martin’s human approach to mass advertising, including pitch-perfect messaging and executions on radio, TV and in print. Martin has sought out creative talent that can relate to the problems of moms — that is, they’ve hired moms — and the work reflects it.
And finally: Have you been in a Wal-Mart store lately? The stores will always be humongous monstrosities. But the lighting, the graphics, the cleanliness all have improved dramatically, in the new and renovated stores. The new logo and color palette help quite a bit.
(Martin did not spearhead this effort, but someone did a nice job.)
Two years ago it would have seemed unlikely for Apple, with its carefully cultivated brand, to team up with Wal-Mart, regardless of Wal-Mart’s retail muscle. Today it makes perfect sense, thanks to Wal-Mart’s massive and nicely executed re-branding effort, with help from the folks at Martin.