Smiley, once an icon at Walmart’s U.S. stores and in its advertising, is returning to the retailer’s marketing team after a decade on the bench, according to Judith McKenna, chief operating officer for Walmart U.S.
McKenna told more than 2,600 Walmart U.S. store employees at the annual meeting on Wednesday (June 1) in Fayetteville that Smiley has long been a symbol of happiness and low prices. She said the time has come for Smiley to return because he sends the right message.
Smiley was dropped in 2006 from advertising and from use on employee vests and other uniforms. The company in June 2006 settled a trademark dispute over use of the smiley logo. Frenchman Franklin Loufrani claimed international trademark rights to a version of the image similar to that being used by Walmart.
Most published reports credit the invention of the smiley face logo to Harvey Ball of Massachusetts. He created the logo in 1963, but without the eyes. He later added eyes so the logo could not be turned into a frown.
Tony Rogers, chief marketing officer at Walmart, noted in a blog Wednesday that nearly 70% of customers still associate Smiley with savings at Walmart. Smiley’s image will be used in advertising and across the store signage in the coming weeks.
Smiley has long been associated with price rollbacks and today the image also signifies customer service with a “happy to help” attitude that McKenna said she’s seeing in stores across the U.S. over the past year.
“Our business is getting better, we are making real progress, but it goes way beyond the numbers. … We are restoring the pride in our business,” McKenna said the meeting.
Under the seat of every chair in the arena were two Smiley pins, that McKenna said were “a Smile to wear and a Smile to share.”
The entire meeting theme was about sharing happiness as Family Feud host and television personality Steve Harvey took the stage.
“Laughter is everything, Harvey told the crowd. “It’s your attitude that determines your altitude,” he said.
Harvey joked that he would like to get a job at Walmart under one condition – that it would be in the fishing department, his favorite part of the store. He said there was one store he likes better than Walmart as an avid bass fisherman and that’s Bass Pro Shops.
“Don’t be upset. They don’t have nearly as many stores but they do have stuff Walmart doesn’t,” Harvey said.
Harvey also entertained the crowd with a friendly game of Family Feud during the event. Other entertainment for the U.S. meeting included two songs by country music artist Kelsea Ballerini. Ballarini, who grew up in Knoxville, Tenn., said when her first album went on sale in late 2014 she went to Walmart in her pajamas to buy a copy. She signed her first record deal in early 2014 at the age of 19.
Other Walmart U.S. news shared at the event included the following facts about the business.
• $200 million in sales of adult coloring books so far this year
• 3 million emoji pillows sold so far this year
• Clean, Fast, Friendly store scores rose from 17% to 76% year-over-year
• Clean, Fast, Friendly store scores up for 79 consecutive weeks
• 12,500 store promotions in the past year
• 6 quarters of improved customer traffic
• 7 quarters of positive comp sales