What We All Can Learn From Wal-Mart’s “Fat Girl” Costumes




I’m sure you’ve all seen at least some of the reporting on Wal-Mart’s online advertising of Halloween costumes for plus-size women as “Fat Girl Costumes.” This mega-retailer’s insensitive choice of wording and obvious lack of oversight has ignited an outcry on social media – rightly so. And, the corporate brand is taking a beating as a result.


“This never should have been on our site,” Wal-Mart spokesman Ravi Jariwala told Business Insider. “It is unacceptable, and we apologize. We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

No organization ever wants to be in a position requiring the release an apology of this nature. So, as unfortunate as this incident is, I say let’s use it as a reminder of how important brand image is and the steps we can take to build and protect it.

  1. Your brand image should be treated like a living, breathing thing that has to be attended to regularly. Everyone in your organization should know your brand message and how to communicate it through the job they do – from the top to the bottom. If you have a tagline, then it should be a short but memorable encapsulation of your brand.
  2. Recognize that your brand touches every aspect of your business, right down to how your phones are answered, your employees’ e-mail signatures, corporate attire, etc.
  3. Just like your organization has one logo, it too should have just one voice that is in line with your brand. This voice will speak in all of your materials, whether printed or online. Every communication you have has to be true to your brand and deliver on your promise, do that and you will have created a brand that truly speaks to your customers in a way they can trust.
  4. Create and implement design templates and brand standards for all of your materials. It’s important that every document that represents your organization is a reflection of your brand. So, you’ll want to make sure there is adherence to your corporate colors, logo placement, and the overall feel and message. Consistency is king.
  5. Monitor the communications that are being created for your organization, building in the necessary oversight to ensure proper approvals are being obtained prior to release.

You tell me…what are you doing to build and protect your brand to make sure something like this recent Wal-Mart incident doesn’t happen at your organization?