“Access at scale is a very key priority for Walmart. So we created this experience for our customers to celebrate their communities. We know that nobody really wants summer to end, and we were really excited to provide this joy at scale for our customers to dimensionalize this ‘live better’ part of our overarching brand promise.”
–Allison Rand, Head of Experiential Marketing & Talent Partnerships, Walmart
The Y2K vibes have been strong across a range of events and activations this year, and over the summer, Walmart jumped on the nostalgic trend with a cross-country tour that invited adults to take part in all of the in-store activities their parents banned when they were kids. The Walmart Summer Rewind tour, hosted Aug. 18 to Sept. 30, kicked off in Austin and hit store parking lots in 31 other cities to celebrate local communities and deliver moments of “childlike” joy—something the brand’s “GenZennial” (Gen Z and millennial) customers crave.
The time warp was apparent from the moment consumers stepped into the Summer Rewind footprint. Upon entering, they were greeted with an oversized, throwback “Smiley” installation and retro, pastel-colored backdrop. From there, attendees were free to break the rules. Think: Climbing into one of the brand’s ubiquitous ball “cages,” interacting with an oversized Lite Brite installation and contributing to a giant spin-art paint project.
There was also a chance to jump inside a Walmart freezer, but this time it was a freezer speakeasy offering a collection of frozen sweet treats. And a set of old-school vending machines was on hand dispensing surprise freebies in small, Y2K-era containers. The brand also recruited retail partner Mattel to enhance the Walmart Summer Rewind experience with a life-size Barbie box photo op at a time when Warner Bros.’ “Barbie” movie was at its peak.
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“It was important that we created an experience that really invoked this nostalgia for our customers and felt like a celebration for them as the summer winds down,” says Allison Rand, head of experiential marketing and talent partnerships at Walmart. “So by keeping these moments of nostalgia front and center, we were able to recreate an experience that, first and foremost, felt really authentic to our brand, but also reminded customers of those good old days.”
Naturally, the activation lent itself well to social sharing, whether it was the colorful ball cages and spin art, or the retro, infinity mirror-style photo op among oversized popsicles. And from user-generated content to Walmart’s own social media strategy, the word was sufficiently spread. In some instances, the brand used content from its earlier stops to attract more visitors to upcoming locations, in addition to a boost from paid media. Ultimately, however, Walmart will largely gauge the impact of the Summer Rewind tour based on talk value and organic social pickup in the communities it visited.
“Access at scale is a very key priority for Walmart. So we created this experience for our customers to celebrate their communities,” Rand says. “We know that nobody really wants summer to end, and we were really excited to provide this joy at scale for our customers to dimensionalize this ‘live better’ part of our overarching brand promise.” Agencies: Momentum Worldwide (event agency); Golin (p.r.).
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