Never having shopped at Wal-Mart, the IPKat prefers to send his human owners out to do his shopping for him. Nonetheless his whiskers are sensitive to the word in the street, which is why he’s always on the look-out for neologisms. And he’s just found a fresh one: the Word-Spy website reports on an unflattering use of the WAL-MART brand name in common parlance: “the Wal-Mart effect”. Word-Spy defines this as follows: “The economic effects attributable to the Wal-Mart retail chain, including local effects such as forcing smaller competitors out of business and driving down wages, and broader effects such as helping to keep inflation low and productivity high”. This effect, which was described in powerful terms by Naomi Klein in No Logo, may be feared and hated by small traders but is presumably music in the ears of Wal-Mart’s private and institutional shareholders, for whom it is synonymous with prosperity and financial success. The pejorative term “Wal-Mart effect” may be contrasted with the previous neologism incorporating WAL-MART, the use of the somewhat cuddly endearment “Wal-Martian” to describe people who shop (or work) there.

The IPKat thinks brand owners can learn a lot from the way the public incorporate brand names into their everyday speech. McDonalds didn’t get the hint when the “Mc-“ prefix they so vigorously defended became attached to terms like “McJobs” and now they are facing an uphill task in regaining their former public popularity. Will Wal-Mart be the next brand to go from hero to villain? If the presence of hostile websites is anything to go by, the Beast from Bentonsville has left it rather late to salvage its former image.

Visit Wal-Mart here
Visit Wal-Mart’s critics here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here
Work for Wal-Mart? Looking for a career move? Click here

UP AGAINST THE WAL-MART UP AGAINST THE WAL-MART Reviewed by Jeremy on Friday, December 26, 2003 Rating: 5

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