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Wal-mart fails to be hip

Joe Conley on Tuesday, 18 July 2006.

Apparently Wal-mart wants to be the next MySpace. But for kids. And you can't have any questionable content. Oh, and you can't contact each other. Oh, and they tell your mommy and daddy you joined. I couldn't make this stuff up:

Wal-Mart Tries to Be MySpace. Seriously

"It's a quasi-social-networking site for teens designed to allow them to "express their individuality," yet it screens all content, tells parents their kids have joined and forbids users to e-mail one another. Oh, and it calls users "hubsters" -- a twist on hipsters that proves just how painfully uncool it is to try to be cool.

Wal-Mart is launching a highly sanitized, controlled and rather unhip site at walmart.com/schoolyourway.

The opening page shows video of four teens -- a bubbly fashionista, a Texas football player, a quirky skateboarder and an aspiring R&B singer from New York -- who are clearly actors reading a script, although the videos are positioned to appear authentic. Within, there are pages such as "Beth's Backyard Club," where you find a picture of her in a strapless prom dress above the approved quote: "I'll school my way by looking hot in my Wal-Mart clothes to school to catch a cute boy's eye. ...

The site is an attempt at closing the trend gap Wal-Mart now faces as Target wins more teen-apparel dollars. And there's a lot at stake here. "Wal-Mart really needs this to work," said Irma Zandl of youth-marketing firm Zandl Group. "Over the last year, we have been getting increasingly bad feedback from teen girls about Wal-Mart in contrast to Target -- especially Wal-Mart's apparent lack of cleanliness, messy layout and lack of stylish attire. This attempt at 'we media' is terrific. We'll have to wait and see if it's enough to overcome in-store issues."

I think there might be a few more issues wal-mart should worry about instead.

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