Wal-Mart can never be fashionable.

July 8, 2004

For two years Wal-Mart has been trying to make itself fashionable. Wal-Mart and fashion? You have got to be kidding. It’s never going to happen.

Wal-Mart, the world’s largest retailer, stands for cheap. Wal-Mart has successfully established its brand as the place for “always low prices.”

Marketers always need to remember that once a brand is firmly positioned in a mind you can almost never change it. Especially when a strong competitor already owns the position you now want to move your brand to. Wal-Mart has no chance of become chic because Target already owns that position.

Target was the first fashionable mass merchandiser. They have invested heavily in top designers, trendy merchandise and cool store layouts. They are unlikely to be knocked off the fashion perch. Especially by a brand that is the antithesis of cool.

Why do powerful brands once they become successful want to mess with the formula?

Some other crazy examples of brands trying to move their position the mind include:

* Kodak Digital cameras, Kodak stands for conventional film the brand cannot move to digital

* Volkswagen Phaeton cars, nobody is going to spend $80,000 and only walk out of the showroom with a Volkswagen.

* Levi’s Tailored Classics Khakis, thank goodness Levi realized the error of trying to move a blue gene brand to khakis, they relaunched the product as Docker’s and the rest is history as they say.

Once in a blue moon in a slow moving category you can change your brand’s position. One example is Citibank, which 20 years ago was primarily a business bank. Today Citibank is a powerful worldwide consumer bank brand. But it took a long time.