Black Magic Walmart

23 02 2010

If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. We heard that throughout our Wonder Years. We’ve tried to embrace it in our personal lives. And we’ve seen companies like Pepsi live it and breathe it (how many times are they going to introduce a different diet cola aimed at men?).

And now Walmart has joined the Hey, I’m A Believer Club. Yesterday WM announced they are buying online video download service Vudu in an effort to stave off sagging sales in tangible merchandise.

You see, three years ago WM tried to do this. They have read the tea leaves along with the writing on the wall: Tangible stuff is dead. Music. Movies. Even video games. Dead. Without a pulse.

It was just last year that WM was toppled from its berth as top music retailer, sent packing by…drumroll, please…iTunes. Who woulda thought? And Having seen B&M movie rental chains like Blockbuster and Movie Gallery taking a beating at the hands of Netflix and old-school-but-cheap Redbox, they figured they had better try again. It hasn’t been all that long since WM could claim up to 40% market share of new DVD releases. But since ownership is so 2005, fewer and fewer people could care less if they actually have the product sitting on their shelf.

The ticket to WM’s success with the Vudu venture will be to simply leave it alone and not rebrand it under the Walmart umbrella. While WM is without doubt the premier retailer in not just the US, but the entire world, there just isn’t a whole lot of cachet in saying “Hey, let me tell you about the movie I just downloaded at walmart.com.” Sorry. Not cool.

You see, we shop at WM for daily consumables, and often more because it is there (OK, omnipresent) and usually has competitive prices. It’s not like we actually like going to Walmart. Shopping online for highly discretionary products is an entirely different activity from buying cereal, underwear and laundry detergent on the weekend.

I give credit to WM for buying talent where it exists. It is the Google way, after all. Now if they will just be smart enough to let Vudu work its own magic, Walmart might actually become competitive again in the entertainment arena.

Because trying and trying again does not always mean eventually succeeding. Just ask Pepsi.

Dr “Anyone Remember Jake’s Cola? Thought So” Gerlich


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