Walmart logo with slogan

We think of brands as amazingly powerful. People prefer whatever cola they are drinking, as long as it’s labeled Coca Cola. People pay lots more for a Ralph Lauren Polo shirt than a generic shirt of identical quality. And while the brand rarely changes, slogans are treated as ephemeral and tend to be changed much more frequently. But, to resurrect an old Coke motto, what if a brand’s slogan was the REAL thing?

Think of a brand that is all about saving money… how about Walmart? Surprising research shows that consumers exposed to the Walmart name might actually spend less than those exposed to the store’s current slogan, “Save money. Live better.” This curious finding was replicated with other stores and slogans by a team of researchers from Miami, Hong Kong, and Berkeley.

The experiment divided subjects into two groups. Half were exposed to brand names associated with saving money, like Walmart, Dollar General, Sears, Ross, etc. The other half were exposed to the slogans for those retailers, like Sears’ current motto, “The Good Life at a Great Price. Guaranteed.” When asked to visualize a shopping trip and describe how much money would be spent, the brand-exposed group spent an average of $94 vs. the slogan group, who spent just about twice as much: $184.

A second study found that exposing consumers to a “savings” message caused them to spend more than when they saw a “luxury” message. The authors of the paper, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found this counterintuitive and perhaps worrisome:

Companies may be trying to attract customers with slogans associated with saving money, but in fact, this strategy may make consumers spend more money than they would if they had not been exposed to the slogans.

Of course, most retailers won’t be overly troubled by this incongruity. They push savings-oriented slogans not out of concern about excess consumer spending, but rather to increase their own sales and gain market share.

Your Savings Slogan

I’d like this study more if it had been conducted with real money in real stores. But, the findings suggest that a savings-oriented slogan might be a way to boost sales. Most of us ARE willing to spend more if we think we are getting a deal (like that gallon of mayo in your fridge dating back to a Sam’s Club trip two years ago).

Perhaps we haven’t been giving slogans enough credit for conveying a savings message. (Walmart, no slouch at building sales, apparently believes in the power of slogans – unlike many retailers, they build their slogan into their logo!) The Neuromarketing takeaway: have a consistent savings message, and repeat it frequently!

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