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Walmart Plus is using your family-time guilt to get you to subscribe to its Amazon Prime rival

The Walmart Plus launch campaign isn’t about what it does, but what it allows you to do.

Walmart Plus is using your family-time guilt to get you to subscribe to its Amazon Prime rival
[Photo: Walmart]

Last week, Walmart announced that it was launching a new subscription service called Walmart Plus that would give members such benefits as free same-day delivery, mobile scan-and-go (allowing you to scan items on your phone and check out through the app), and 5¢ savings per gallon of gas purchased at Walmart and Sam’s Club filling stations.

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But you won’t see any of that in the brand’s first advertising for this Amazon Prime rival.

Instead of focusing on all the stuff Walmart Plus does, the company’s first spot promoting the service, “A Different Kind of Membership,” is about everything the new membership offering allows you to do with all the time it saves you. According to the company, the average family spends about 2.5 hours per week shopping.

“The question we asked our customers that really sparked this idea was, What do you want to do today? If we could give you back time, what would you do?” says chief marketing officer William White, who joined the company in April from Target. “We heard again and again that they’d spend that time on the things that really mattered to them, like family, friends, and community.”

So rather than go out and tell people what a Walmart Plus membership includes, White gave it to 22 diverse families and chronicled it, getting more than 100 hours of unscripted footage and 30 hours of audio interviews. “What you end up documenting is what Walmart Plus enabled them to do,” says White. “There’s just such a richness in the footage. It’s unscripted, and we were able to create the right story that strikes the right emotional note.”

There’s not a lot of gratuitous Walmart branding in the spot. In fact, just about the only visual that gives it away are the bags on the front porch at the very end.

“We wanted this to feel authentic, but if you start scripting it or overbranding it, you break that,” says White. “When we’re using the families to show benefits of free, unlimited delivery, or member prices on fuel, or scan and go, it still feels right for who they are.”

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We may see masks and distancing as part of the everyday reality in the ad, which was filmed over the last few months, but the brand was conscious not to steer into Pandemic Ad territory. Still, as a result of the pandemic, Walmart has seen its biggest-ever growth of online sales, almost doubling in the second quarter.

White says that while all the benefits of Walmart Plus are universal in a non-COVID-19 world, what COVID-19 did was accelerate trends that the new service aimed to address.

“The idea of unlimited delivery from our stores is all the more important now than ever before,” he says. “When you think about mobile scan-and-go, that makes your journey in the store faster and easier, but it’s also contactless.”

Amazon Prime had a 15-year head start on subscription online shopping, using cute little dogs and tiny horses to help condition us all into seeing speedy shipping of everything from food to furniture as a new normal. Walmart, by contrast, only needs to show the value of what it already offers and how it compares to Prime.

Perhaps the next question is, how much family time would drone delivery get you?

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About the author

Jeff Beer is a staff editor at Fast Company, covering advertising, marketing, and brand creativity. He lives in Toronto.

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