In an era when businesses aren’t sure how to prove value to customers, two of America’s biggest corporations hit a PR home run by having the media do the work for them.
Walmart & Target need no introduction, but you may have missed that they kept prices low during the 2021 Christmas and holiday shopping season. Both companies stated they wanted to gain market share through customer loyalty – a long-term approach which gave up profit today to make more money later.
The decisions made both companies heroes in the press and to the consumers who read that press, and provides a PR formula which anyone can replicate to have media, customers, and other target audiences do your bragging for you.
First, be counter-intuitive. Walmart and Target executives told investors that they preferred to eat pandemic and supply-chain costs instead of raising prices, even though both companies have significant price advantages over the competition. This means that both companies went against the stereotype of large conglomerates who put costs on consumers and eke every cent out of customers’ pockets.
Second, have consistent and believable messaging. Walmart’s CEO said the company wants to help customers fight inflation, and Target’s CEO said customers value saving money as much as they did safety in 2020. See other examples of their disciplined, customer-focused messaging here and here.
Third, your message must resonate with at least one target audience. Walmart & Target knew their decision would make customers happy – and without happy customers, there are no sales, profits, or investors.
Lastly, the message must be well-timed. Walmart & Target announced the price decisions halfway through Christmas and holiday shopping season on investor calls. This means that they:
- Used regular media coverage of investor calls to spread the word faster with no more effort.
- Took advantage of a time when consumers and media are looking for heart-warming stories.
- Gave consumers several weeks to absorb the announcements and respond with more shopping.
If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, it didn’t make a noise – and the same is true if nobody knows about your good work and good decisions. However, the other extreme is obnoxious bragging. The best way to spread the word is to have others do it for you, which is exactly what Walmart and Target did. And that, more than anything else, is what gave them a PR home run.