business news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Los Angeles Times reports that Wal-Mart, which traditionally has used television advertising that focuses on actual customers and employees, is changing its strategy because it has discovered that “they don't quite connect with, well, the right sort of people.”

So now Wal-Mart is using celebrities such as Garth Brooks, Queen Latifah and Beyonce Knowles in its commercials and ads, at least in part because as its stores opened in more urban areas, “just folks” from Arkansas and Alabama simply weren’t the best spokespeople for the company.

Jay Fitzsimmons, the company's treasurer and senior vice president of finance, tells the Times that while the company bragged about its “real people” advertising approach in the past, “Those associates and customers look like they came from Memphis or Birmingham — and they usually did. They didn't resonate with people in the metropolitan areas and the coastal areas.”

However, the Times notes that by taking such an approach, Wal-Mart risks alienating the very people upon whom it has built its business.
KC's View:
While Wal-Mart faces an intriguing challenge as it attempts to traverse between different sensibilities, we’re not sure it is as tough as the LA Times thinks. After all, it isn’t like celebrities are pariah out in the heartland…and the success of magazines like People and Us, not to mention programs like Entertainment Tonight speak to that.