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Walmart's new logo: subtle symbol of ambitions

New corporate logos usually aren't news. But Walmart's unveiling of its sixth logo in the retail giant's 46-year history has tongues wagging over what disappeared.

The all-cap letters that screamed WAL-MART have been toned down to lower case. The star/hyphen/squiggly that's been represented in the Walmart cheer with a hula dance has been erased. The patriotic red, white and blue colors have turned to tranquil blue accented by a yellow sun shape called "the spark."

"We wanted something softer, friendlier and warmer," said Linda Blakley, spokeswoman for the Bentonville, Ark., chain. "The spark is the spirit of our company: innovation, inspiration and people working harder to bring prices down."

In short, corn pone has given way to the corporate look.

It's one part of Walmart's plan to be more palatable to higher-income families — sort of like Target's bull's-eye symbol — only without a cute pit bull.

"People aren't going to change stores because of a logo, but the old one associated Walmart with cheap," said Anand Kumar, a University of South Florida marketing professor. "Along with store improvements, this will help change perceptions."

When the logo appears in stores, signs and ads this fall, it's the last piece of the latest overhaul of Walmart's public look. The slogan switched from "Low Prices Always" to "Live Better. Save Money." Ads are framed in blue. Aisles were widened, floors in apparel departments became wood, and fitting rooms were cleaned up. And the patriotic color combo that dated from the days of Walmart's highly promoted Buy America program (a response to criticism it was the nation's biggest seller of Chinese imports) has been neutered.

Critics lambast the new logo as bland, boring and uninspired. The spark, variations of which appeared in logos ranging from Holiday Inn to Parmalat to Zayre has been described as an asterisk, the sprite that activates Pac-Man figures and a sphincter.

Hey, it's Walmart. Everybody has an opinion.

Walmart's new logo: subtle symbol of ambitions 07/14/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 15, 2008 9:52pm]
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