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Walmart Rebrand: Starburst, asterisk, or sphincter?

By July 17, 2008January 20th, 202129 Comments

Walmart offers always low prices, but at a cost.

The company has been criticized on a number of fronts including their record with labor, the environment and vendor negotiations. Incredibly, the company accounts for over 11% of the U.S. trade deficit with China, representing nearly 200,000 jobs lost.

Now we have another reason to pick on them: The Walmart Rebrand.

Here’s a graphic showing the evolution of the Walmart logo:

walmart rebrand and history of walmart logos

Walmart offered little explanation for the change:

For the past two years, a customer focused transformation has been taking place in Walmart’s U.S. business.

Walmart’s U.S. locations will update store logos as part of an ongoing evolution of its overall brand – customers have already seen this in refreshed store signage and recent print advertisements and TV commercials.

But what really matters is what happens out there in the stores. This update to the logo is simply a reflection of the refresh taking place inside our stores and our renewed sense of purpose to help people save money so they can live better.

Can they be more vague? If they are going to leave the logo open to interpretation, that’s what I’ll do:

The color is more contemporary, and by moving from all upper-case to a capitalized “W” and lower-case letters it’s more approachable.

But what’s with the ginormous starburst?

At first I wondered why they didn’t read my blog post about marketing without an * because that’s what it looks like—a huge asterisk.

By definition, an asterisk is “used to highlight a particular word or sentence, often to indicate a footnote” or “a blemish in an otherwise outstanding achievement.”

So, where’s the footnote, and why would you want a logo that looked your company name with an asterisk? Can you imagine AT&T*, Apple*, GM*, Microsoft* or Johnson + Johnson* doing this? No way.

Should Walmart go out of their way to communicate that they have a blemish (pick one) on their otherwise outstanding achievement (biggest retailer in the world)?

Even worse, it looks like a big sphincter. So many people already consider them one, does their logo need to look like it?

You know, great branding can help capture and communicate the way the consumer really feels about a company. When branding is strong it hits a chord, bringing together a company’s strategic objectives, customer experience, and creative vision in a seamless way. And the logo is a core piece of that. Outsource Marketing’s Director of Creative Services Rheana Hersey says,

The meaning behind your logo should be harmonious with the feelings people have about your brand. Your logo takes your brand identity and brand, ties them together in a pretty little bow, and presents them to the world. That tiny little mark does a ton of heavy lifting.

Some designs can be misinterpreted, or are unclear, uninspiring, or just plain boring. Any company should get feedback on a logo design and consider its many potential associations and implications.

Hmmm. When you consider how many people feel about Walmart maybe their branding people actually hit the mark.

Would you agree that Walmart’s new logo is highly irresponsible, even borderline unforgivable? Why or why not?

Comment below to weigh in.

. . .
Originally posted on July 17, 2008. Revised on January 20, 2021.

Inspiration for the this post came from the smartbrandblog.

Join the discussion 29 Comments

  • It seems to me that brandmarks or logos often reflect their times or times the company wishes to evoke. The new Walmart logo looks very 1970s, to me; perhaps they are planning to roll-back prices to the 70s too? The China logo mock-up is hilarious.

    Someone should do a book of these logo transformations or a web site. Would be interesting to see how other brands have evolved or devolved.

    For an interesting take on The Nature Conservancy brandmark, check out:

  • Hmm.... says:

    I agree with greenskeptic, that the new logo looks dated already, it reminds me of stores in the 60’s and 70’s as well…. Even though the china logo was intended to be funny, and is funny, I think that one has way more visual punch than the one with the asterisk…. The significance of the stars next to the Walmart name would probably go over most people’s heads….I wouldn’t consider their new logo irresponsible, it just looks kind of like a starburst or something to me, but it just kind of looks dumb, dated, and five and dime-ish….

  • Harry says:

    I like the new logo. However, when I saw it I said “Maybe now folks will start using the name properly in copy.” For years I had to correct coworkers who typed it as, Wal*Mart, when it was Wal-Mart in all the retailer’s press releases. Unfortunately, Wal-Mart appears not to have changed that, and the proper typed name is still Wal-Mart as shown here: Since they took out the star in the middle, I thought the new typed version would now be simply, Walmart. Oh well. Maybe they’ll change that eventually.

  • Mike says:

    Here’s what I can tell you from discussions I have had with friends that work for the company at their HQ.

    First, the “asterisk”, is a star. The star in the center of the logo actually had a meaning and represented the founder, Sam M. Walton. It was put there in his honor after his death so that he would never be forgotten.

    The removal of the star completely would have been very controversial (just changing it created an uproar at the home office) so it was modernized and moved to the end.

  • CLClark says:

    Thank you, Mike for clarifying a question that has been burning in my mind. I, personally, love Walmart. I appreciate the opportunity and products that they bring to small markets. The ease of conducting commerce there is something that I appreciate, and it is something that I cannot find in other stores. I know what to expect when I go into a Walmart and I know that they will make it right if I don’t get it. I was very curious about the new symbol, and have a greater respect for it now that I know for what it symbolizes. Walmart is not a soul less creature, rather, it is a corporation, like many others, which is run by people. And those people seem committed to fulfilling Sam Walton’s vision of friendly customer service, and providing people with things that they want and need at a low price.

  • Rikki says:

    Actually the change was not that noticeable for me. I just now realized the change since I mostly just go in and go out without bothering to look at the sign out front or on the bags. It didn’t hit me until they actually started rearranging everything the store, much to my initial disdain but now everything’s placed together in a more convenient way. I don’t have go clear across the store to get toothpaste when everything else I’m buying is in the grocery section. To me the new logo does look more approachable. Less corporate and more people friendly. The asterisk seems a bit odd but it looks like a flower almost which goes with the whole friendlier image they’re trying to portray.

  • Aww. In my heart, they’ve always been Sphincter Mart.

  • I have to say that Walmart has changed their logo look a lot but I suppose that this does tend to happens things become more modern, this site is informative

  • Net Age says:

    Sphincter is pretty much spot-on, considering what they have done to small retailers all over the place. Pucker up folks, here comes some more cheap Chinese crapola to consume 😉

  • Michelle Bowen says:

    I came by this little website because of an email I had recieved about how walmart (however you want to spell it) was rebranding. Hmmm. I didn’t notice a change either. At first glance, the new thing on the end looked like the sun to me. It probably looks like something different for everyone, actually. I laughed hard about the sphincter, though. Soon, wally worlds will have driven out all the other stores, and will raise its prices again-and we will have no choice but to shop there because it will literally be our ONLY choice. Sphincter, sun, starburst or whatever, theres some fine print were not seeing.

  • Interesting research article regarding the history of the Asterisk*, absolutely vital for the survival of companies as worthy as ours.

    Robert E. Coli
    CEO Thromby Air – Lowest of the Low
    * while this is presented as historical research, like all research it may not be entirely accurate.

  • Veteran says:

    The walmart asterisk represents the same to me, as it does Barry Bonds hall of fame record = TAINTED & Cheater

  • Veteran says:

    written by a walmart manager with big brown asterisk on his nose

  • Hard to argue with you on that one, especially since you are vet.

  • Now there’s a way to put it. Thanks for weighing in.

  • SteveMLee says:

    The symbol is not really an asterisk as the six ‘rays’ do not even come close to touching. The rays are rays of light emanating from an invisible (hidden) center. It is possibly a new variant of the illuminati symbol of the circle with a central dot. Or, just a symbolism of the worldwide expansion that Walmart achieved. Or both.

  • barbara weiss says:

    Everything is just an opinion, we need the real truth about the asterisk.

  • Max Lee says:

    merge the top W and bottom M =logo

  • Max Lee says:

    The upside down of W is M.

  • Scott Schoenhardt says:

    Go to youtube and search “Walmart, caught red handed ” Doesn’t surprise me at all. Big business keeping us in the dark and making billions

  • Wal****Manager says:

    The astrick symbol in the WM logo is not an astrick, but refered by the Home Office as the Spark Symbol. Some focus group and white shirts down in Bentonville, AR came up with this genius *cough cough* marketing ploy. It targets customers and it’s associates in the same, but different ways. Same sh**, different toilet approach could be considered. For proud WM associates, they use it for company morale and publications by asking associates “what makes you spark at Walmart?” This question refers to what makes one grow and shine, happy, and basically what turns you on – and gets you off – everything Walmart. For the customers, same thing – what makes you spark? Why do you enjoy shopping here and how does Walmart make you get a hard on?

  • steve says:

    It is the outline of the titanium drill bits on the massive sized drill bits that dig tunnels to all military owned and purchased ex WalMart buildings, used for future underground delivery system to all participating warehouses.
    Massive undertaking since late 1970’s. Look it up.

  • Steve – That’s fascinating and we’d like to read up on that. Can you provide a link to that? Did a little searching and couldn’t find it.

  • Great info regarding the way the “spark” is used at Walmart. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Ahem. But it’s a professional opinion. 😉

  • Dan says:

    It’s a satanic symbol. If you turn the logo upside down you will find 666. The starburst has 6 pieces. The a letters become 6’s.

  • Emanon says:

    It’s a 6 sided star. It’s a satanic symbol. People who say they like Wal-Mart don’t know the shady stories behind the scenes. First off, Ol’ Sam was NOT a downhome country boy. He was his frat president, a member of a few secret societies, military intelligence. He banked with the most notorious drug money laundering banks, etc. Also, I don’t know what they’re for, but the pits behind numerous locations and drains big enough for people to walk thru, along with the vacated warehouses with razor wire and lots of cameras that were added later really makes me curious. Also, they don’t bring opportunities to small towns, they wipe out all the small businesses and hire those people at shit wages. They don’t trust their own employees. They don’t care about them either.

  • Jim – This is some pretty wild stuff. Do you have some articles and other info you can share? Would be interested to learn more on this.

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