Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Is Wal-Mart Now Walmart?

In the new issue of the Copyediting newsletter, Paul R. Martin writes:

Today's lesson, class, is about the differences between company names and brand names or logos.

Hey, that's my lesson!

Paul goes on to discuss the latest example of the signs-don't-match-the-name phenomenon. The stores of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which once bore signs reading WAL*MART, now bear signs reading Walmart*. We grown-up publications types don't go for starbursts or asterisks (or all caps when initials aren't involved, for that matter), but should we now be writing about Walmart rather than Wal-Mart?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: As with J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and its JCPenney stores, and Exxon Mobil Corp. and its ExxonMobil service stations, we're faced with one rendition for the company and another on the signs it uses. Because it would be rather silly outside of a discussion like this to write about "J.C. Penney Co. Inc. and its JCPenney stores" or "Exxon Mobil Corp. and its ExxonMobil service stations," we grown-up publications types need to pick one rendition or the other, and it makes sense to choose the one that's on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

If you're still rooting for "Walmart," by the way, the company behind the stores, as Paul Martin points out, makes a bid for the "most refreshing bit of logo candor" award in its news release announcing the change in typography:

In its 46-year history, Wal-Mart has freshened up its logo on a number of occasions. Its last revision was in 1992.

Wal-Mart, eh? Well, there you go.


Anne said...

The SEC rule is a nice guideline, but at some point, common sense or common parlance has to intervene. For instance, how would you refer to the Indiana-based pharmaceutical company that manufactures Prozac? That company is on file with the SEC as Lilly Eli.

Anonymous said...

Thank you. That exact question occurred to me in the past week or so as I became aware of seeing both versions in TV ads. (And your general point always bears repeating.)

Mike D said...

The problem with that last part about the press release is that it illustrates that even the company is inconsistent in how it treats the spelling.

In the title bar it's Wal-Mart, in the headline it's Walmart, in the first two mentions in the text it's also Walmart, and finally in the last paragraph it's Wal-mart.

Bill said...

Yep. And when a company gives you that sort of multiple choice, you should feel even more empowered to do the right thing.

Ross Brown said...

It's hard to believe such a major company can't be consistent in the use of its own name! And in a single press release... sad.

Andy Bechtel said...

Newspapers have played this game too.

The daily newspaper in Raleigh, N.C., is The News & Observer. But the company that publishes the N&O called itself The News and Observer Publishing Company for many years.

Jeff Hunt said...

When a company is inconsistent in its treatment, house style should dictate. I work for an online news site, so we've decided to reflect the forward-looking change, and will refer to the company as Walmart.

Andrew said...

Careful with them Walgreens stores, too. They're owned by the Walgreen Company, but the stores do not use an apostrophe.

Unknown said...

I linked the copyediting newsletter to my fiancee, which resulted in an invective-laden, Stylebook-perusing diatribe on how "copy editing" should be two words. She's sending them an angry email mow.

In her words, via IM:
"Feel free to quote me :V"

Ellydishes said...

Excellent example, Bill. Working in a marketing department, I cannot count how many times in a single day this practice makes me raise my hackles.

Apparently, brand recognition now hinges on the most degenerate naming you can come up with. Whatever happened to basing it on customer service?

Unknown said...

So flu shots are being offered at "Walgreen" (the SEC-filed name)? "Walgreens" may be only a cursive logo, but c'mon.

Bill said...

Yes, I should have made it clear that I'm not ruling out case-by-case exceptions when things aren't as tidy as my examples are.

TootsNYC said...

Crate and Barrel uses the letters a n d in all the official parts of its website; the ampersand is in its store logo.

They're at least helpful in their consistency.

Danny Volt said...

It was perfect timing to see the Wal-Mart/Walmart example, because I had recently wondered about that, too ... I thought, after years of making sure our reporters used "Wal-Mart" I thought, uh-oh, now we have to unlearn it. So that's a relief.

noneemac said...

Newell Rubbermaid has a division or company or ... well, let's face it, it has a moneymaking concern called "Mimio," which is a whiteboard-interactivity thingy-slash-technology. The snarky folks who crafted Mimio's Web site (www.mimio.com) spell "mimio" lowercase most of the time, because the logo is lowercase "mimio." ... Folks, it's the thick, bubbly logo that's "mimio," not the company name.

The absurdity reaches new heights when the company pulls some sort of inverse-capitalization trick when referring to its products. The result is this bizarre combination of the lowercase firm name, followed by the R-ball, followed by the initial-capped product name. For example, "mimio(R) Pad."

Just ugly and bizarre.

** **

Memo to Toots: It's "Web site," not "website."

JEA 1 said...

The media relations person at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said to retain the hyphen when writing about the corporation: Wal-Mart Foundation, Wal-Mart stockholders, Wal-Mart employees. Use Walmart elsewhere: I'm going to the Walmart discount store in Salina.