Wal-Mart Emulates the Social Networking Scene

wal-mart hub.jpg
Nothing says mid-summer like the appearance of back-to-school campaigns. Last week JCPenney began its campaign, and this week Wal-Mart’s The Hub appeared on the scene.

It’s yet to be seen whether the target audience will embrace the site, but it was heavily criticized in an AdAge article and subsequent reporting on other media and blog sites.

The criticism is in response to the antiseptic nature of The Hub. Any content posted to a page must be approved from both Wal-Mart and the poster’s parents. There’s also no contact between kids with profiles posted on the site. Yes, the site leaches out the general nature of what makes MySpace and other social networking sites so popular, but do remember that it’s a campaign and serves its purpose in that way. And are kids really going to embrace this and post their own profiles? Probably not. It really has a similar feeling to the JCPenney campaign that shied away from CGM but populated its site with bubbly teens talking about themselves with an emphasis on personal style and fashion.

When I spoke to Bolt CEO Aaron Cohen yesterday, he said “All brands are looking to be cooler in some way, and yet cooler is so illusive.” Clearly Wal-Mart missed the mark of “cool” among the blogging and media community, but what about with the target audience? The question is whether we applaud Wal-Mart for giving some freedom with its brand, though with parameters; or if it should have avoided the perceived social media elements in its campaign?

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