That Walmart is launching the program the day "American Idol"
begins its 2012 season is just a happy coincidence, a spokeswoman
said. Thanks to a soft launch to work out kinks, and publicity that
included mentions on Walmart 's blogs for New York City and
Washington, the marketers behind some 60 products are singing for
their supper at the website GetontheShelf.com.
They include the "Marmalade Lady," who submitted a video
apparently taken at the 2008 North Carolina State Fair to support
Sundae MmmMarmalade with hints of strawberry, pineapple and French
vanilla. Hugs Pet Products has submitted several entries backed by
professional-looking direct-response ads for, among other things, a
portable dog wash and Uggs-like Pugz Shoes for dogs.
Would-be suppliers have until Feb. 22 to submit entries. Two
waves of voting will take place March 7 through April 4 to pick 10
finalists and April 11 thru April 24 to select the final three.
Just like "American Idol" contestants, the marketers will be able
to use social media or any other method to get friends, families
and hometowns to vote for them. After all, seeing how well the
marketers can generate interest is part of the contest, said Chris
Bolte, VP of @WalmartLabs.
The aim of @WalmartLabs is not only to develop e-commerce and
social-media platforms and technologies, but to generate innovation
in how the retailer does business, Mr. Bolte said. While Walmart
does a great job of stocking shelves with products consumers want,
he said, "we wanted to try something new and different around
enabling our consumers to have an opportunity to pick products we
should be carrying."
The move isn't meant to replace buyers either for Walmart .com
or Walmart , Mr. Bolte said, "but we wanted to enable them to
identify and source products that maybe they hadn't thought of
The venture is experimental but could be repeated, according to
Mr. Bolte. "It has all the legs and attributes and qualities for
something that could be a continuous program," he said. It might
ultimately be segmented by country, region or category, but the
first edition is open only to U.S.-based companies. Walmart will
promote the program through Walmart .com and its Twitter and
Last year's attempt by entrepreneurial startup OraBrush to get
its tongue cleaners on Walmart shelves through viral videos and
Facebook ads wasn't the inspiration, Mr. Bolte said. But OraBrush's story of a company trying to take the
grassroots approach even before the structure was in place, he
said, "made us feel much better about trying this experiment."
Nothing prevents established Walmart vendors from trying their
hand at GetontheShelf.com, though small players are more likely.
Walmart is offering to help scale their production to meet the
demands of the $419 billion global retailer. That help could
possibly include financing or helping to find contract
manufacturers, Mr. Bolte said.