He’s baaaack. After a decade-long hiatus, Walmart is resurrecting “Smiley,” the familiar yellow smiley face icon that greeted shoppers and advertised the retailer’s “always low prices” for more than 15 years.
Walmart announced Smiley’s return this month on its blog. The Arkansas-based retailer said Smiley is a way for Walmart to communicate to shoppers its commitment to low prices.
“We felt like it was time to bring back an old friend, and one of the most-recognized symbols of low prices … Smiley,” said Walmart’s chief marketing officer, Tony Rogers. “We first introduced Smiley in 1990 and, since then, he has been a widely recognized symbol for low prices. In fact, nearly 70 percent of our customers still associate Smiley with savings at Walmart even though he’s been behind the scenes for the past decade.”
Smiley disappeared from Walmart stores in 2006.
“He didn’t fit in with our advertising at the time. We were taking a different approach,” Walmart spokeswoman Danit Marquardt told CNN Money. “He has been used intermittently, but he hasn’t been an active part of our advertising.”
Smiley was also at the center of a lengthy trademark battle between the retailer and Franklin Loufrani, a Belgian designer and president of The Smiley Co. in Brussels. Loufrani, who claims he created the familiar Smiley face in 1972, has the iconic yellow face registered in more than 100 countries.
Loufrani and Walmart fought over the trademarking of Smiley for years. According to CNN Money, the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board ended up siding with Walmart, which led Loufrani to sue the retailer in 2009. The case was closed in 2011, though details of the settlement haven’t been made public.
“We own the trademark for Smiley,” Marquardt told CNN Money.
Smiley’s face has already cropped up on Walmart’s website and Twitter pages and will soon get some face time at a Walmart store near you.
Do you remember Smiley? What do you think about Walmart’s decision to bring him back as the face of its low-price marketing campaign? Sound off below or on our Facebook page.