Why the (Smiley) Face? A Chat with Walmart’s CMO

By Emily Schmid
June 1, 2016
Rollback sign in store with Smiley

Earlier today at Walmart’s U.S. Associates meeting – part of the company’s Shareholders week events – Chief Operating Officer Judith McKenna revealed the return of a familiar face: Smiley. For more on this topic, we sat down with Chief Marketing Officer Tony Rogers.

Just as the smiley face has long been a symbol of happiness, Walmart has long been known for low prices. Reuniting the two makes sense – but why now?

You’ve heard us talk a lot recently about the importance of leading on price. Low prices have always been our key differentiator and we have an unwavering commitment to providing our customers with low prices every day. As we were thinking through how to communicate our low prices to customers, we felt like it was time to bring back an old friend, and one of the most-recognized symbols of low prices … Smiley.

We first introduced Smiley in 1990 and, since then, he has been a widely recognized symbol for low prices. In fact, nearly 70% of our customers still associate Smiley with savings at Walmart even though he’s been behind the scenes for the past decade.

Walmart’s latest ads featuring Smiley show him popping in with a great price as everyday dilemmas are solved in a pinch. What does Smiley mean for customers?

Quite simply, when Smiley is on the screen, our customers know that he is helping them get great prices.

Back in the day, Smiley was the face of rollbacks. Today, he represents all low prices.  Whether we’re talking about a great everyday low prices or a new rollback, Smiley’s our man. 

How have associates responded?

Our associates love Smiley.  They share a larger purpose – advocating for our customers. For Smiley, it’s about delivering low prices.  For our associates, it’s about great customer service. 

A few weeks ago, I was visiting stores and asked a few associates what they thought about Smiley’s return. I was blown away by how passionate they were.  They’re really excited about how he’s been integrated into the “Happy to Help” program which is about recognizing our associates for the ways they serve customers. And, they can’t wait to see him bopping around the screen lowering prices again.

Tell us honestly: Emojis are becoming a big part of our conversational culture. Do you think of Smiley as the first emoji?

In our eyes, he’s simply the champion for low prices at Walmart.

Bringing Smiley back into Walmart’s advertising feels nostalgic. What do you think Smiley represents in terms of today’s Walmart?

As retail evolves, there are elements that are timeless. Today, as much as ever, our customers need us as their advocate for low prices. Smiley represents that commitment.  

Take a look at a timeline of Smiley's life.