Walmart can trace its legacy back to 1950, the year a young Sam Walton opened his first store in Bentonville, Arkansas. His strategy was straightforward: if he wanted to attract customers away from his competitors, he had to offer the best prices. It was a risky plan: slash prices too far, and he could kiss goodbye to any profits. But convinced that increased sales would make up for the loss, Walton persevered. To say it paid off would be an understatement. Today, the Walton family is among the richest families in America, with their joint net worth adding up to a mammoth $190.5 billion. Walmart, meanwhile, is the largest company by revenue in the world, operating from 11,496 stores, 27 countries, and generating a revenue of $514.405 billion. Sam Walton's strategy clearly worked. But just how much a part has the Walmart logo played in the company's success?
The Walmart Logo from 1950 - 2008
Over the years, the Walmart logo has undergone numerous changes. As 1000logos.net explains, it began life as little more than Walton's name spelled out in bold, red type. In 1962, Sam Walton renamed his growing enterprise to Walmart. With the rebranding came a new logo, although like its predecessor, it was a simple enough statement of nothing more than the company's name. 1964 spelled another change, this time in the form of the "Frontier Font Logo". This time around, it featured a fancier font and introduced a hyphen between "Wal" and "Mart". In 1968, the logo was upsized for use in print advertising and in-store signing. The name of the company was boxed and placed in a circle, and the captions "We Sell for Less" and "Satisfaction Guaranteed" were added. 1981 saw another update, this time to include a reversion to the simpler logo of earlier days. In 1992, a star was adopted as an update on the existing logo.
The Current Logo
In 2008, Walmart made the latest and last change to its logo. The capitalized lettering of the old logo was replaced with lowercase letters, and the divide between "Wal" and "Mart" was dropped. Accompanying the lettering was a yellow sunburst referred to by the company as "the spark". According to blog.logomyway.com, the sunburst was introduced as a way of making the store more attractive to higher-income families - a demographic that Walmart had, until then at least, never really tapped into.
Anand Kumar, a University of South Florida marketing professor, explains the reasoning behind the change with the comment, “People aren’t going to change stores because of a logo, but the old one associated Walmart with cheap. Along with store improvements, this will help change perceptions.” Walmart itself echoed the sentiment in a statement that read, "For the past two years, a customer-focused transformation has been taking place in Walmart’s U.S. business. Walmart’s U.S. locations will update store logos as part of an ongoing evolution of its overall brand – customers have already seen this in refreshed store signage and recent print advertisements and TV commercials. But what really matters is what happens out there in the stores. This update to the logo is simply a reflection of the refresh taking place inside our stores and our renewed sense of purpose to help people save money so they can live better."
The Meaning Behind the Starburst
At the center of Walmart's current logo is the starburst - or, as the company prefers to call it, "the spark". Although everyone has their own ideas about what the starburst represents, the company has actually made it pretty explicit already. According to walmartmuseum.com, each "sparklet" represents one of the key values or principles behind the company:
Sam Walton once said "There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else." It's a sentiment that Walmart still stands by today - at least according to their marketing team.
"Respect for the individual means valuing and recognizing the contributions of every associate, empowering others to do the same, and communicating by listening and sharing ideas," says Walmart... and who are we to disagree.
Walmart value integrity. So says the spark, and so, apparently, says the company's President and CEO Doug McMillion, who notes, "We’re here to serve our customers. We have high standards of performance and we do the right thing."
At the heart of Walmart is an army of 'associates' trained in everything from greeting customers to pricing items and organizing displays. Walmart clearly values these associates - so much so, in fact, it's dedicated one of its sparklets to them.
Walmart prides itself on delivering a great service. Considering a happy customer is a loyal customer, we can understand why.
If Sam Walton is to be believed "High expectations are the key to everything." So highly does Walmart value excellence, it's given the concept its very own sparklet.
The Half Spark
The half spark is a symbolic doff of the cap to Sam Walton. Intended to symbolize the store's connection to the original spark of innovation that inspired Walton to revolutionize shopping as we know it, it's the brand's way of connecting with its creator's legacy.
According to turbologo.com, Sam Walton once said “It is customers who are true masters and managers of your business, and it is them, who can fire any director or make him a bankrupt. So, if you attempt a rebranding, you must never forget to attempt significant changes in your company as well”. We've got no reason to believe he didn't. And it certainly ties in with what we know about the logo and the many makeovers it's experienced over its life. Each rebranding has come at a significant point in Walmart's history - the change from Walton to Walmart as the first example, and the change (or, at least, the attempted change) from being perceived as a cheap, lower-class company to one that offers quality products for discerning customers as the last. Whether or not you like the logo - well, that's a matter of opinion. But regardless of whether you do or don't, you can't deny it's an intrinsic part of the Walmart brand.
Written by Lily Wordsmith
Read more posts by Lily Wordsmith