Every receipt tells a story and Walmart wanted to get maximum exposure for sharing those stories.
Walmart chose the 89th Annual Academy Awards to unveil its new ad campaign, assigning filmmakers like Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to create 60-second “films” based on popular items found on Walmart receipts: Bananas, paper towels, batteries, etc.. The only direction Walmart gave the directors: be storytellers.
The film Bananas Town was the first short to roll out during a commercial break in the Oscars telecast (bananas play a prominent role because they are among Walmart’s most popular items). Walmart posted the film on its YouTube channel. According to Walmart spokesperson Megan Kring, the campaign is intended to “lift the storytelling and creativity” of the brand and to show that “every receipt tells a story.”
While the film is a playful romp with singing and dancing, the campaign highlights an important lesson about connecting with employees and customers, a lesson all leaders—in any field—should take away: There’s a story behind every product, brand, company and yes, every receipt. It’s a leader’s job to tell those stories.
For example, I once met with a Senior Director in product development at Walmart. Her challenge was to share the culture of Walmart at the monthly orientation sessions for new employees. These meetings are quite large. Walmart receives 10,000 applications a month and employs more than two million people. All new hires in her area were required to watch this manager’s keynote—from associates to managers to executives at the corporate office in Bentonville, Arkansas.
The product manager had plenty of facts and figures about Walmart, but we decided that personal stories were needed to build a stronger emotional connection with new associates. During our conversation, the manager turned me to and said,
“You know, Carmine, our slogan—save money, live better— really means something.”
“Oh? Tell me about it,” I asked?
“My brother in law was diagnosed with ALS. I helped my sister care for him as his health deteriorated. The monthly costs for his care began to pile up, so I suggested to my sister that we shop at Walmart to save money—this happened before I even worked for Walmart. We saved $300 a month on the very same supplies we had been using. With that $300 a month, we bought a wheelchair accessible van which gave my brother-in-law more freedom. He even used the van to attend my nephew’s college graduation, which my nephew will never forgot.”
Once those of us in the room wiped the tears from our eyes I asked if she had a photo of her brother-in-law. “If you tell that story and show photos of your brother-in-law, nobody will ever forget the company’s mission and what it means to the lives of every one of your customers.”
Three days after she gave the keynote (with the story and photographs), a new employee stopped her in the hall and said, “That was one of the most inspiring talks I’ve ever heard.” The employee felt inspired because stories are irresistible. In fact, stories connect with our deepest needs as humans.
Walmart CEO Doug McMillon recognizes the power of story. He once opened an annual shareholders meeting by saying, “At Walmart, we love stories. There is just something about them. We enjoy telling them. We remember hearing them. We repeat stories and pass them down. We also write them. Together, we’re writing our company’s story.”
A growing body of research is finding that companies with a strong mission and purpose have a competitive advantage in this ultra-competitive global economy. Storytelling can help you find the messages to inspire customers and employees. You might not be able to hire Seth Rogen or buy a commercial spot during the Oscars, but anyone can learn to tell better stories. Remember, every receipt has one.
Read article on Forbes.com