PORTLAND, Ore. -- Wal-Mart Stores has positioned itself worldwide as "the brand of brands," said Julie Lyle, the company's vice president, international marketing.
Although she noted that Wal-Mart is aggressively pursuing development of private-label lines, "We are first and foremost a brand of brands, and our partnerships with our suppliers are very important," she declared.
Lyle said, "The power of brand lines is their ability to influence purchase behavior everywhere in the world, and branding is all about shaping the relationships we have with our customers."
Operating stores in 11 countries using eight primary languages, one of Wal-Mart's biggest challenges is communicating its brand message to diverse people in different cultures, Lyle said. "To translate the Wal-Mart brand across the world, we have to create a sense of passion and ownership using the basic principles of advertising," she explained during Connections 2002 -- the annual business conference sponsored by the Food Industry Leadership Center at Portland State University, held here recently.
"We sell a lot of different merchandise. But what we sell, how we sell it and what inspires customers to come back is what differentiates us from other companies. We strive for brand leadership around the world, and we try to inspire people to come to Wal-Mart and then facilitate them once they're there.
"The way to do that is to have everything they want when they want it at a price that delivers value. We have to make it convenient to find the products they want in stores that are easy to shop, and we must treat them nicely while they're there."
Wal-Mart strives to keep prices as low as possible by relying on global sourcing and local purchasing, strict expense controls, its distribution systems and information technology, she said.
Wal-Mart also decentralizes the decision-making process and remains flexible to change based on customer feedback and the demands of each local culture, she said.
To ensure that stores are never out-of-stock, Wal-Mart maintains strong partnerships with suppliers, including local sources, Lyle said. Citing one instance, she talked about a situation in China where some farmers faced bankruptcy because of an overabundance of cucumbers.
"The day after we became aware of that situation, we had people in the fields at 9 a.m. buying 1,500 kilograms of cucumbers, and we had them available at eight stores later the same day," she recalled.
In everything Wal-Mart does, Lyle said, it maintains core principles of integrity, including respect for individuals and service to customers.