NAPLES — Wal-Mart may be global, but the retail giant wants its advertising to become more local.
"We think there's an opportunity to take our message local, but we need to find innovative ways to do that so that you don't sacrifice the scale of the national buy," said Tony Rogers, Wal-Mart's senior vice president for marketing, at a News Industry Summit in North Naples on Tuesday.
The three-day industry summit, hosted by the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, at The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, focused on growing newspapers in the digital age. Rogers discussed the transformation of retail marketing in the digital age and how Wal-Mart is looking to grow its business.
Rogers talked "off the record" to the publishers' group, but agreed to share some of his comments with the media after his speech.
"We're seeing a huge chunk of the growth coming from multicultural customers and it's a huge focus for us," Rogers said.
Multicultural means Asian, African-American and Hispanic.
The world's largest retailer has gone more local with its ads that show real customers who shopped elsewhere taking their receipt to a nearby Walmart to see how much they could have saved on the same bill.
But Wal-Mart has found those ads have a short shelf life, with prices and deals constantly changing, Rogers said.
He said there is "a lot of noise in the marketplace" from competing retailers, offering buy-one, get-one free deals and loyalty cards with discounts, for example.
While Wal-Mart's circular ads in the newspaper are effective, Rogers said the retailer is looking for additional ways to connect with customers.
"The idea really is to reach the customers where they are so if our customers get most of their information from a mobile phone, I need to figure out how to be on their mobile phone," Rogers said.
He challenged newspaper executives to think of ways to partner with Wal-Mart to reach more customers locally with its low-price message: "Save Money, Live Better."
"We're trying to stay hungry even though we're big," Rogers told the group.
He said if newspaper executives worked together to provide solutions to Wal-Mart's marketing challenges, it would be better than hearing from them one at a time.
During his speech, Rogers discussed the founding of Wal-Mart more than 50 years ago, sharing a quote from the company's creator, Sam Walton, who in his last public statement said, "If we work together we'll lower the cost of living for everyone. We'll give the world an opportunity to see what it's like to save and have a better life."
Today, the company has annual sales of more than $440 billion and about 2.2 million associates worldwide.
In keeping with the discount retailer's mission, Rogers told the group he decided against staying at the Ritz-Carlton, choosing a nearby Hampton Inn instead.
At Wal-Mart, he said, an expense report for the Ritz-Carlton wouldn't go through without raising some eyebrows.
After Rogers spoke, several attendees approached him, saying they had ideas to help make Wal-Mart's advertising more local. Jack Haire, the president and CEO of Parade Publications in New York, described his talk as a "home run."
Connect with Laura Layden at www.naplesnews.com/staff/laura_layden