With this paper, I had an easier time writing it. I like being able to look at something like an advertisement and analyzing it, putting my own interpretation into it. The ethnography essay allowed me to do all this, but it’s hard to describe something in so much detail without sounding too wordy or redundant.
The thing I struggled with most in this paper is how to make an argument about it, while still incorporating ethos, pathos, and logos. I first chose this advertisement because I saw a woman in the picture and thought, “Oh, this could be controversial! I’ll talk about sex discrimination”. We had been analyzing ads in class, talking about the people in them, and how it relates to the overall message. But when I wrote Evan, he said, “Focus on the place, Wal-Mart, more.” So, when I started to plan my paper around that idea, it all came easier. I could still talk about how a woman was in the advertisement instead of a man or a couple while talking about the overall atmosphere of Wal-Mart.
The thing I liked the most was being able to research stuff about Wal-Mart and People Magazine. I found out so much more about the allegations against Wal-Mart and how popular People Magazine really was. It was cool that I got to incorporate these statistics into my paper with it still making sense.
Honestly, this was my favorite paper to write so far. I might have even liked it better than pieces I wrote in high school. The public discourse essay that is up next seems like it’s going to be really challenging. But I said the same thing about the rhetorical analysis paper and I really enjoyed writing it.
Save money. Live better. As a reader leafs through an issue of People magazine, four simple words are intended to catch a reader’s attention, persuade them to take action, and build brand awareness. Walmart, the largest superstore company, grocery retailer, and private employer in the world, attempts to lure potential customers with very basic, simple advertising. For example, their website greets visitors with messages such as, “Low prices just got lower” or “Un-boo-lieveable Halloween Savings at Walmart”. Web links also are available that direct potential customers to the value of the day or to view more special offers. These marketing tactics are designed to keep customers intrigued and likely to stay on the website and look further into potential purchases.
In today’s “bigger-is-better” consumer market, high industrial ceilings, organized aisles, and spotless floors could describe any big multi-purpose store. Walmart, however, wants a consumer to believe that its’ stores have all these things and more. That is the conclusion one derives from Walmart’s advertisement for the cleaning product, Swiffer. Multi-colored Swiffer WetJet mops and Sweeper Vacs — neatly lined up, hanging from hooks, everything in the display fully stocked. The ad states that Walmart listened to its’ customers and completely redesigned its cleaning aisle. If this aisle looks the way it does in the advertisement, a customer probably assumes that all the other aisles in the store look similar to this. Walmart is a 24-hour store that sells a great variety of goods at the lowest possible profitable price. They also strive to provide customers with more than just everyday items, including kitchen utensils, car maintenance items, sports equipment, and even organic flowers. The Swiffer advertisement shows a young, casually-dressed, blonde-haired woman standing in Walmart’s cleaning supplies’ aisle admiring the ample stocks of Swiffer products. The shopper’s blue, hand-held shopping basket is adorned predominantly with Walmart’s famous logo facing out toward the reader while she flashes a big satisfactory smile. An avid shopper must find it irresistible to not go inside and buy a fully assembled Swiffer starter kit right away. As Walmart’s ad states, “Get a better clean at unbeatable prices”. Who wouldn’t jump at this buying opportunity?
Unfortunately, Walmart’s advertising strategy and corporate mentality still seems rooted in the 20th century, when only women were associated with the role of homemaker or housekeeper. In today’s American society, however, there are many households headed by a working woman while a man has the prime housekeeping responsibilities or both adult members of the household share these duties. This advertisement perpetuates the stereotype of only women being responsible for buying cleaning products and taking care of the home as acceptable. This may be a miscalculation by Walmart and result in ineffective advertising because many people who share the more enlightened view of today’s society may choose not to shop at Walmart. A simple revision to the ad by having a couple or family walking down the store aisle, shopping together, would be much more effective. This would appeal to the working couples in today’s marketplace who share household responsibilities and would not seem as condescending toward women.
Additionally, Walmart’s public image, tarnished somewhat by its’ recent highly publicized legal troubles, works against the effectiveness of their advertising and its’ ability to draw in new customers. Even though this ad features an inviting locale and a pleasant shopping experience, with a happy woman strolling down the store aisle finding everything she is looking for, the impression that customers and Walmart employees are always pleased with their choice to shop or work at Walmart is false and misleading. Walmart has not been generating a lot of positive publicity lately. About two weeks ago, Walmart agreed to pay over $350 million to settle wage and hours worked lawsuits in 42 states. The company was accused of forcing employees to work through previously-negotiated breaks and not paying employees for working overtime. Additionally, a class action suit has been filed against Walmart for discriminating against women in the areas of promotions, pay, training, and job assignments throughout the United States.
To counter the view that Walmart is not a pleasant place to shop and work, or that it is not sensitive to women’s issues, it appears the advertising has been designed to move public opinion in a different direction. So, an ad featuring a brightly lit, colorful, shopping aisle populated by a female customer is designed to dispel potentially thoughts of gender discrimination or employee dissatisfaction. In advertisements, therefore, Walmart makes it look like it’s the greatest place to shop and work. To the uninformed consumer or to the long-time, dedicated Walmart customer, this approach may have some success. To a potential customer that is sensitive to labor and gender discrimination issues, this advertisement will have little positive effect and will most likely be ignored.
People, the 12th-largest magazine in the United States based on circulation, contained this advertisement for the Swiffer at Walmart. People is geared toward celebrity gossip and human-interest stories, and is an effective vehicle for the placement of Walmart ads given Walmart’s present public image. One of People’s early editors characterized the magazine as focusing on people, not the issues affecting the people. This is clearly the strategy Walmart pursued in placing their advertising. They want to steer away from issue-oriented consumers who may have a negative feeling toward Walmart and just appeal to the People readers who enjoy the colorful ads and view the company in the ad at face value, rather than at some deeper level. Even at purely face value, though, this is not a very effective ad and it’s fairly easy to skip right past the ad in the magazine. It is a fairly plain advertisement without much information in it– just a picture with some blue words in bold print. There is a message in fine print at the bottom of the ad, however, that says, “Our stores will match the price of any local competitor’s printed ad for an identical product”. This conveys to me that Walmart will do anything to get and keep a customer in their store. According to a study by Global Insight, a noted marketing intelligence firm, Walmart’s low-pricing philosophy had reduced corporate revenues since its’ inception by $263 million through 2004. Walmart constantly emphasizes low price and it appears as an act of desperation to maintain their customer base.
Setting aside Walmart’s legal issues, as a person who has never set foot in a Walmart and does not have one in or near my hometown, I would not be persuaded by this ad to locate a Walmart to shop in. Overall, this advertisement had little effect on me. The ad was not persuasive and not successful in changing my perception of shopping at Walmart– I would buy my Swiffer elsewhere. While Walmart thinks of itself as organized, clean, and colorful, its’ legal and labor issues indicate that it may be a disorganized and very unsatisfactory place to work and potential customers should take that into consideration in their purchase decisions. “Save money. Live better”– Walmart claims to have the lowest prices and satisfied customers. But with all the accusations against Walmart and the lawsuits being filed and settled, a Walmart shopper needs to consider whether they are actually “living better” by patronizing this company.
“Economic & Financial Data.” IHS Global Insight. 2010. Web. 01 Oct. 2010. <http://www.ihsglobalinsight.com/EconomicFinancialData>.
“Investors Are Not That Impressed With Wal-Mart – Intelligent Investing – Ideas from Forbes Investor Team – Forbes.” Forbes. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://blogs.forbes.com/investor/2010/09/09/investors-are-not-that-impressed-with-wal-mart/>.
“Walmart.” People Magazine 27 Sept. 2010: 45.
“Walmart.” Walmart.com: Save Money. Live Better. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2010. <http://www.walmart.com/>.