Think of a brand—any brand. What comes to mind when you do? We all make associations with brands, for better or worse. If the associations we have of a brand are negative, can they be changed, and if so, how?

I’m a weekly Wal-Mart shopper but not really a fan. Grocery store selection is somewhat limited in small-town Diamond, Ohio, and my family needs to eat. Is it as bad as the “People of Wal-Mart” website makes it out to be? Whether fact or fiction, the people of Wal-Mart persona is one that Wal-Mart needs to address if they want to beat it. Their recent “The Real Wal-Mart” ad campaign attempts to do just this—with commercials featuring people from all walks of life who shop at the retail giant. They emphasize 60 percent of Americans shop there at least once a month. While the campaign might not convince me that everyone shopping at Wal-Mart is a mechanical engineer, nor do I care per se, I’d say it’s a step in the right direction to shed the “People of Wal-Mart” image.

Another Wal-Mart stereotype—that they don’t stock quality produce—was recently countered by a commercial that tricks people into believing they are shopping at a farmer’s market when in fact, the bins at the market are stocked with Wal-Mart produce. As a weekly Wal-Mart shopper, I was optimistic about the produce I might find in my local store—but that optimism turned to disappointment when I realized nothing had changed—they are still stocking the moldy strawberries and bruised apples they always have. It seems I am not alone in my experience.

Chevron tackles some of the stereotypes confronting its organization directly with its “We agree” website. The site features top concerns and what Chevron is doing about those concerns—topics such as “protecting the planet is everyone’s job” and “the world needs more than oil” are addressed in commercials that end by saying if Chevron can’t do it right, they won’t do it at all. For now, I’m inclined to believe them.

So what does it take to successfully overcome a brand stereotype? Tackling stereotypes head on is a brand’s best bet for overcoming them, but if bits of the stereotype persist, shedding the stereotype will likely be difficult