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Wal-Mart sinks teeth into DVD

Thanks to sales that are outpacing pretty much the rest of the retail segment, Wal-Mart is having its day. With a robust marketing program around the upcoming DVD release of the vampire movie Twilight, the value-priced retailer hopes to also own the night.

While many other retailers are reporting sales declines in the current economy and struggling to stay afloat, value-priced Wal-Mart beat market expectations for February, posting a 2.8% gain in company sales. Comparable-store sales rose 5.1%.

The retailer is looking to repeat the magic in March thanks, in part, to its first big-scale marketing campaign for the release of a DVD.

“We’ve done fan engagement with music before and for Hannah Montana’s concert movie, but this is the first time we’ve put so much around the midnight launch of a DVD,” said Melissa O’Brien, a Wal-Mart spokesperson.

Already, O’Brien reports that pre-sales for the DVD are at “historic” levels.

Wal-Mart is the exclusive retailer for the standard single-disc Twilight DVD, which is being released on March 21 by Summit Entertainment and will be available at Wal-Mart for $17. The movie, based on a book series, is a love story between a teenage girl and a vampire that was something of a media phenomenon in its release last year.

The integrated marketing campaign around the DVD release includes dedicated in-store Twilight shops, midnight events in Wal-Mart’s 24-hour stores on March 20, a microsite that is already in place at Walmart.com/twilight, several social media tie-ins as well as more traditional media, such as placement in Wal-Mart’s circulars.

With the effort, Wal-Mart is hoping to “engage big fans of Twilight as well as our everyday customers who are interested in what this is all about,” said O’Brien.

The campaign leans heavily toward social media, however, because Twilight’s young fans tend to be engaged with social media, she continued.

“This is a good campaign for social media because the movie audience is com­prised primarily of women who love to talk about Twilight in many different ways,” said O’Brien. Wal-Mart worked with agency Rockfish Interactive to develop the cam­paign’s social media aspects.

“Watching movies is a social experience,” said Kenny Tomlin, president and CEO of Rockfish Interactive. “Because of the popularity of the Twilight books, numer­ous groups sprung up all over the Web to discuss and review the movie. With the soon-to-be released DVD, we wanted to continue the conversations online at Walmart.com.”

On March 9, Wal-Mart will host Twilight actor Taylor Lautner on BlogTalkRadio. Lautner, who plays Jacob Black in the film, will take questions from fans. Wal-Mart also is partnering directly with some blog­gers who are doing promotions around the Twilight DVD release.

The social media tie-ins extend to MySpace and Facebook, where Wal-Mart has Twilight-themed pages letting users know about the BlogTalkRadio show, the mid­night events and other programs.

On the micro site, www.walmart.com/twilight, fans are able to create an electronic invitation for their own viewing parties, discuss the movie with other fans and down­load a Twilight trivia widget.

The site also includes viewing party ideas, new behind-the-scenes movie footage and recipe suggestions from vendors such as Pepsi.

Beginning the weekend of March 13, Wal-Mart stores will have dedicated Twilight merchandise areas. Here, fans will be able to find graphic T-shirts, tote bags, jewelry and other Twilight-related merchandise.

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