Will TV audiences value what Whole Foods is selling?

Oct 24, 2014

Whole Foods has never run a national ad campaign before. Now that it has, will it make any difference to the natural and organic grocery chain’s business? Will television commercials convince former shoppers to return? Will print ads bring in new customers who always assumed it was too pricey for them to even consider? Will any of it make any difference to Whole Foods’ loyalists?

"Not everyone knows what makes Whole Foods Market different from other grocers, or the fact that no other retailer has standards as demanding or as transparent as ours," said Jeannine D’Addario, global vice president of communications of Whole Foods, in a statement. "This campaign will distinguish what makes our brand special, our food different and our quality superior. It’s our opportunity to reaffirm our unwavering commitments to core values, which are at the heart of our brand."

One thing Whole Foods is not trying to do with its campaign is to convince consumers it’s a discount grocer. In fact, noticeably absent from the TV spots or print ads is an messaging that refutes the grocer’s "Whole Paycheck" image.

[Image: Values Matter]

The voiceover for the first spot in the campaign reads:
"We are hungrier for better than we ever realized.
We want to know where our food comes from.
We care what happens to it along the way.
We want to trust our sources.
We want people, and animals, and the places our food comes from to be treated fairly.
The time is ripe to champion the way food is grown, and raised, and caught…
So it’s good for us… and for the greater good too. This is where it all comes to fruition… Where values matter."

The chain launched the first of its "Values Matter" commercials during the opening game of the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals. Whatever enthusiasm Whole Foods’ management had for the campaign may have been tempered when they learned the television audience for the first game of this year’s Fall Classic was 19 percent lower than when the Boston Red Sox and the St. Louis Cardinals squared off in 2013.

What is your critique of Whole Foods’ “Values Matter” commercials and branding campaign?

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7 Comments on "Will TV audiences value what Whole Foods is selling?"

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Dr. Stephen Needel
7 years 6 months ago

It’s a commercial that preaches to the choir, so I think its impact will be relatively minimal. Beautifully shot, though.

Ian Percy
7 years 6 months ago

Just saw an article where Wolfe Research found that organic foods bought at Whole Foods were significantly more expensive than the exact same products bought at conventional stores like HEB, Wegmans and Mariano’s. There’s really not much argument about there being a premium to pay shopping at Whole Foods.

But there is something else about the place, there’s a wholesome energy there that is palpable in my experience. And the connection of “values” to “value” in their new ads is brilliant. Knowing a little about agricultural and livestock practices, I couldn’t endorse Whole Foods’ commitment to their values more. I wish others would join them.

Lee Peterson
7 years 6 months ago

Both Whole Foods and Starbucks never advertised until this year. Looking at the ads they kick out, I have to wonder why they have started. To get someone to convert? To build the brand? To confirm commitment from loyalists? To further an already stainless perception? They sort of achieve all of that, I guess.

Frankly though, I’m not convinced they really need to do any of that. They’re nice ads, for sure, but they don’t seem to address any of the challenges the companies are both actually facing.

For example: Whole Foods should push a message along the lines of, “You think our food is expensive? How expensive are your medical bills from eating crap?” But alas, that kind of truth might just seem elitist. Or heaven forbid, too strong.

Joan Treistman
7 years 6 months ago

I think the major risk with Whole Foods’ commercials is that they assume viewers will stick with the commercial from the beginning to the end. There is no branding until the very last scene that shows the logo. If I want to insure that my brand is connected with a new message, I would plant my name in several frames, at least.

The next risk has to do with the tagline, “The Healthiest Grocery Store,” shown in the last frame of the commercial. If the goal of the campaign is to promote that “no other retailer has standards as demanding,” why focus on “healthiest?” It’s confusing, conflicting and distracts.

I don’t think this campaign will deliver to Whole Foods what they are wishing for.

Li McClelland
Li McClelland
7 years 6 months ago

Clearly this is image advertising more than advertising that is meant to directly get shoppers into their stores. Played with the MLB games this looks like they’re trying to replicate the feel-good “this is America” image ads of much of the classic Superbowl advertising—only at less of a hit to Whole Foods’ advertising budget. I’m not sure it’s the right approach for them but who knows. I don’t see any downside.

On a side note, it’s so clear now that baseball has been dethroned as America’s pastime and that makes me very sad.

Gordon Arnold
7 years 6 months ago

Great commentary with good content presented for persons with an average elementary school education. Affluent observers with a stronger education might wish for a little more meat on the bone of contention offered in this presentation, which is of course the need to know the products are safe and healthy to use or consume. Showing proof of verification and tracking methods with out disclosure of proprietary information(s) or processes would add to the interests and nourish the confidence of those who can afford shop there. A stronger message with more measurable results would be the availability of 24 hour guaranteed fresh delivery of the product(s) they sell ordered by phone or electronically at reasonable packing and shipping costs. Adding value to value added products and services is always a good thing for the customer and the company.

Alan Cooper
Alan Cooper
7 years 6 months ago

Great commercial. Walk through a Whole Foods and it’s a whole different experience than that of your neighborhood supermarket. Whole Foods though, exists in “better” neighborhoods with higher levels of income and higher levels of education.

I may be cynical, but the large group of people who do not read labels, are generally less educated and eat a ton of processed foods might be oblivious to this message.


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