Whole Foods is tired of its “Whole Paycheck” moniker. Though I have no hard data, it seems as though the store has made some effort in recent months to offer products that are less expensive than the top-of-the-line organic/natural/free-range/chemical-free/etc. items that also line their shelves.
Still, the “Whole Paycheck” reputation persists.
With financial results coming up short — “Whole Foods’ stock was the second-worst performer in the S&P 500 after losing 30-some percent of its value since January,” according to Slate — the company has decided it’s now become a business imperative to shake this nickname. It’s launching its first-ever branding and marketing campaign this fall.
Co-CEO John Mackey says he wants this campaign to tell the company’s story about what makes them “unique” and “special” even as it continues to cut prices to compete against other grocers like Walmart and Kroger’s that are now offering organics as well.
It would be a mistake for Whole Foods to move 100 percent away from what has made it successful to begin with. What it needs to do is refine its message to show value for the customer. Here are three suggestions we have for improving the company’s brand message.
-Push generics. Whole Foods’ house brand is pretty darn good. And, just like the generic brands in other stores, it’s less expensive than the name brands that it sells. Whole Foods is known for being expensive, but it’s also known for quality, which extends to its house label. It’s a message that sells the brand and pushes product.
–Focus on cheese and produce. I did not know what a pluot was until I went to Whole Foods. There’s never a problem finding a tangelo. Or a cheese from a far corner of France. This is a good thing for people who shop at the store specifically for this level of variety. A shop that has access to the wide range of cheese and produce that the world has to offer has something valuable. And if they have cheesemongers and produce specialists with the knowledge to talk to customers about that, they should be a part of the marketing effort.
–People simply have to pay more for food. While no one wants to pay more and certainly no one in this world — let alone this country — should go hungry, the price of food has gone up. And eating good, quality food that’s organic, from specialty sources, travels far distances or is in short supply will cost more. Customers need to know that when they come to Whole Foods, a portion of its stock will fall in this category and will be priced accordingly. If you manage people’s expectations, they won’t be so quick to criticize. (Food policy to bring down the cost should be a priority in this country, but that’s a different story.)
Certainly, there’s much more that Whole Foods can and will do with its first campaign, but these are three suggestions from a customer who really seriously loves their Veggie Straws, cheese selection and olive bar. And I’ve developed a taste for pluots.
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