A few weeks back, a confidential Wal-Mart executive report was leaked to the New York Times. The conclusion of this analysis was that the hallmarks of Wal-Mart - deep discounts, one-stop shopping, and huge variety - are working against the company's efforts to go more upscale.
As a result, Wal-Mart is not effectively competing with stores like Target or Best Buy when it comes to fashion or consumer electronics. Apparently, when Americans have one of those big, high-risk buying decisions to make, they don't think of Wal-Mart. And the report digs deeply into the company's challenge to transform itself from "a chain focused on basic household items sold at low prices into one known for style."
Wal-Mart - style? That's an oxymoron if there ever was one. Isn't it like trying to re-image the Corvette as a practical, family, economical car? Or to position McDonald's as an upscale restaurant focused on cuisine?
We see this phenomenon all the time in radio. If you're going to be the big, in-your-face personality station that is involved in the community, it's going to be difficult to compete with a music box format like Jack for the quantity hill. The fact is, every great radio station's strengths - whether they are personality, music quantity, information, or variety - can be exploited by a competitor in one way or another.
Too often, stations (and obviously, successful chain stores) don't build on their strengths. Instead, they dilute their brands, try to become something they're not, and in the process, weaken their foundations.
It's hard to imagine shopping at Wal-Mart for a high-end HDTV or the latest in fashion. What's wrong with being the store famous for low prices, no hassle, and variety? Something tells me those values are coveted by many other retailers, who would be more than happy to move in if Wal-Mart decides to walk away from them.