Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) has turned its yearly holiday wish list efforts for kids into an online game, but not everyone is amused. The Wal-Mart "wish list" program lets kids compile gift wish lists on the Internet and then email that list to parents for holiday safekeeping. Think of it as an action item list of sorts. Sounds innocent and fair enough. Of course, Wal-Mart's goal here -- as it should be -- is drive more holiday sales. No surprise there.
So, why the fuss? Some days it seems Wal-Mart can't make a single move without being decried in some fashion.
Well, one minor detail that I picked up on pretty easily was that some of the specific messaging Wal-Mart has used in the program -- much of which won't be picked up by kids -- could be offensive to adults who are trying to teach their kids that the holiday season is about more than amassing toys. For example, in the Wal-Mart wish list program, cartoon elves guide kids through the website, applauding when a toy is added to a list and complaining that they'll be out of a job when a toy is rejected. Ouch -- who storyboarded this?
The larger concern is by direct marketing model to children, Wal-Mart is adding to holiday stress by increasing the kid nag factor. Although online wish lists have been available online at retailers for what seems like forever, this is the first time a retailer with the scope of Wal-Mart has presented an online wish list program that is designed for use only by kids and not adults.
It's the virtual equivalent of taking your kids into a Wal-Mart and letting them inspect every toy in every aisle -- with obligatory coat pulls every few seconds (the nag).
Is this just innovative marketing by Wal-Mart or a pain in every parent's head? What's your take as a parent and/or WMT shareholder?