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Best Buy Calls Out Walmart

Retailers routinely take jabs at their competitors in ads, but the references tend to be oblique.

Not so Best Buy’s latest TV spot in its “True Stories” series of Blue Shirt testimonials, which takes dead aim at Bentonville.

In it, sales associate Rachel Munoz from store  No. 1473 in McAllen, Texas, recounts the time a shopper called from inside a Walmart with questions about flat-panel TVs.

“You’re obviously calling us because we’re knowledgeable,” she tells him — the unspoken corollary being that Walmart is not. “And we’ve got the price match guarantee. So why don’t you come on in and we’ll get you set up with exactly what you need?”

Sounds like fightin’ words, but Best Buy’s chief marketing officer Barry Judge downplayed the challenge. “It’s just part of the True Stories campaign,” he told TWICE, and was culled, like previous executions, from the 700 to 800 submissions received each month. Rachel’s anecdote “is a great way to show, in a very humble way, that our prices are just as good as Walmart’s,”  he said.

Indeed, of the 90 CE SKUs that both retailers carry, Best Buy matched or bested Walmart’s prices on 70, and later readjusted the remaining 20, Judge said.

The bigger message, he explained, is one of support and service. “It’s all about how we can help consumers get their technology dreams fulfilled.”

Best Buy will make that even easier next week when it begins adding SMS codes to its Sunday circulars, enabling customers to text and receive additional product information on their mobile phones. “The mobile channel is a big opportunity for marketers,” Judge said. “Every ad can be a response ad.”

The company is also increasing its online efforts to help drive Web traffic and wring out a bigger bang for its marketing buck amid a flat advertising budget.

Meanwhile, Ms. Munoz remains the featured Blue Shirt on Best Buy’s home page and on posters in stores, standing ever vigilant over the battle lines she helped draw.