Walmart Stages a Musical at its Annual Shareholders Meeting
You might remember the dramatic goings-on in Bentonville last year, the agency hirings and firings, and top marketers coming and going. Yes, 2006 pulled in all of the elements of comedy and tragedy. But before that news broke, Walmart had embraced another aspect of the theater: the musical.
Walmart was looking for a way to let its staffers know more about the company’s plan to become more environmentally friendly, and Los Angeles event agency Ethos stepped up with an idea that was fresh, new and game-changing. For the 16,000-plus executives, local staff and store employees (many flown in from around the world) attending the annual shareholders and associates meeting at Sam Walton Arena, a PowerPoint wouldn’t do. So the company produced a fully scripted musical theater production, complete with a cast of 25 professional performers, custom score and lyrics (sample song title: “The Day That I Met Sam”), dancing and a script covering key points of a new eco-friendly approach.
The 85-minute show followed the adventures of Patti and Dennis, both Walmart store employees, as they learn about the new initiatives—including the fact that stores will be selling organic cotton baby clothes and low-energy light bulbs. While the script was being written, extensive interviews with Walmart staff around the country helped the creative team incorporate Walmart jargon and inside jokes, most of which served up roars of laughter (one passage referenced the high temperatures in stores at night after the a/c is turned off).
The event generated business-section coverage in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal and, best of all, drew a standing O from the crowd in Bentonville.