Yep. This is Wal-Mart.

In Springfield, Illinois, not far from where Barack Obama introduced Joe Biden as his vice presidential running mate, stands an attractive, custard-colored building adorned with red brick walkways, fountains, and two colonnades with quotations from Abraham Lincoln tastefully carved into them.

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library? Nope. I’m talking about a new Wal-Mart that opened in July.

The latest addition to the Wal-Mart chain takes a bold (some might say blasphemous) approach of modeling itself after the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in downtown Springfield (pictured below):

I did a double take the first time I saw the Abraham Lincoln Wal-Mart rising from the flat prairie. What is this? Here stood a large, boxy, building, yes — but one with some energy and movement in the design of its front facade, with water fountains and a pond gracing the more functional-looking backside of the store.

By making its singnage understated, Wal-Mart risks causing just a tad bit of momentary confusion (“Is this a Wal-Mart, really?”), but the building attracts your attention straight off, which is important to getting the consumer engaged, obviously.

Yes, the building cannot escape the necessity of a large, bland parking lot in front. But closer to the building, at least you can enjoy wide brick walkways clearly designed to give pedestrians breathing space. Prominent colonnades feature quotes from our 16th president, such as. “People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” I’m not sure Honest Abe had Wal-Mart shoppers in mind when he uttered those words, but so be it. (Perhaps a more appropriate Lincoln quote for Wal-Mart would have been, “If I were to try to read, much less answer, all the attacks made on me, this shop might as well be closed for any other business.”)

The new Springfield Wal-Mart is just another sign of how marketers and retailers are responding to a cluttered world of their own making by appealing to consumers through an experience that connects with you emotionally. There are only so many ways you can make merchandise attractive. Experience-based marketing makes the shopping environment itself, whether a digital or physical store, a fun and engaging destination, which is why it appeals so much to retailers (see Nike Town and American Girl Store). And now, even Wal-Mart.

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