The Speed of Culture Podcast: Balancing Tradition and Innovation as CMO of the Fortune 1 Company

How Walmart's customer-centric approach helps the company stay agile

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With 150 million people visiting its locations every week and 90% of Americans living within 10 miles of one of its stores, Walmart is an iconic brand that has disrupted the American retail market.

However, with the rapid pace of consumer change, how can Walmart maintain its heritage while adapting to current trends and scaling appropriately to meet consumer needs?

To answer these questions, we spoke with William White, chief marketing officer at Walmart, who joins Suzy founder and CEO Matt Britton on the 50th episode of The Speed of Culture podcast.

During their discussion, White sheds light on how Walmart’s customer-centric approach addresses customer needs while balancing tradition and innovation. He also presents the brand’s strategy in social commerce and how Walmart leverages community power.

White is an exceptional marketer with a proven track record of delivering outstanding results by creating compelling strategic visions, developing capabilities and driving effective execution. As a passionate leader, White excels in building, developing and nurturing high-performing teams.

His leadership in creativity, innovation and growth has earned him recognition as one of the world’s top CMOs from several renowned publications, such as Forbes, Adweek and Business Insider. Before joining Walmart, White held senior marketing positions at leading brands like Target and Coca-Cola.

Check out the key takeaways of this episode to learn how Walmart’s customer-centric approach helps the company stay agile and address market changes effectively.

Key takeaways:

  • 05:49 – 07:12 – CPG Versus Retail — When White made the move from Coca-Cola to Target, he found many similarities between CPG and retail. But he also noticed some key differences, like the faster pace of activity and change, as well as the chance to experience the full spectrum of marketing, from advertising to the final purchase.
  • 09:06 – 11:27 – Challenges and Strategies During the Pandemic — White became CMO of Walmart just two months into the Covid-19 pandemic, when the world was in crisis mode. With Walmart playing a crucial role as an essential business, White’s team faced the daunting task of promptly addressing challenges and providing the best possible customer service.
  • 11:55 – 14:26 – Balancing Tradition and Innovation — White faces a delicate balance in his role at Walmart—preserving the company’s heritage while also driving it forward into the future. He understands the core of Walmart’s brand, which revolves around providing customers with both financial savings and improved lifestyles. However, Walmart also has a reputation of innovation and willingness to disrupt the retail industry. As such, White must navigate this tension between tradition and progress, ensuring that the company stays true to its roots while continuing to adapt and evolve.
  • 17:28 – 18:39 – Leveraging the Power of Community — Walmart has a significant presence in 4,700 communities across the United States, with 90% of Americans residing within a 10-mile radius of one of its stores. The company is committed to supporting these communities by providing locally relevant products, partnering with businesses and organizing events. Additionally, Walmart has established a strong social media presence to engage with communities, building positive and lasting relationships based on trust and goodwill.
  • 18:39 – 22:43 – Walmart’s Innovations in Social Commerce — Walmart has continued to build its capabilities around social commerce, aimed to reduce the gap between inspiration and purchase. Its latest initiative is called Walmart Creator, a one-stop-shop platform that enables the brand to have a direct relationship with creators and provides them with an opportunity to earn revenue from referral sales. Furthermore, Walmart was one of the first major companies to introduce shoppable livestreams in the U.S.