Enterprise Marketing & Promotions Management

Is Whole Foods Telling the Whole Story

By / February 2018


During the Super Bowl Whole Foods launched its first ad campaign since being acquired by Amazon last August.  Appealing to a young demographic, the :15 spots featured their new slogan, “Whatever Makes You Whole”.  Included in the package is a man who doesn’t know cheese, two women having cheese and wine in-store telling themselves they’re grocery shopping, a young father with a loaded cart who was just supposed to buy diapers, and a woman helping herself to too many samples.

They are beautifully shot and cast, but, in my view, are missing a crucial advertising element; selling points.  As soon as Amazon bought Whole Foods it announced that it was lowering prices on hundreds of items as well as promoting its private label 365 Brand.

It was a major effort to change the chain’s high price perception, best summed up in the popular phrase, “Whole Paycheck”. This new campaign ignores that vital selling proposition, which it would have been fairly easy to demonstrate.

The new spots make it quite clear that Whole Foods is a really nice place to shop, it has knowledgeable associates, and has everything you need in a grocery store. And, it tells the story in a series of commercials in just 15 seconds.  I suggest that the low-price component of the Whole Foods message could be incorporated if the spots were a more traditional 30 seconds.

I’m not proposing 2 back to back :15s:  the first half image; the second half hard sell.  That’s the path many a supermarket chain would elect to follow, especially in weekly price/item promotions.  But what’s so bad about praising Whole Foods’ wine or cheese value within the context of the conversation.  (I wouldn’t presume to tell Mullen, Whole Foods new agency, how to do that).

Real people, even quirky millennials and other young folks, worry about money.  And what better way to position a grocery store that recognizes both authenticity and practicality, than the combo I’m suggesting? Doesn’t that integration place Whole Foods in a unique niche that might even attract older shoppers who wouldn’t mind a grocery store that knows what every shopper is looking for, a place that “Whatever makes you whole” is just around the corner?

Contributed by Murray Skurnik, Retired Mad Man

More than half a century in advertising as a copywriter, radio/TV producer and creative director. Big agency stints at Benton & Bowles, Ketchum McCloud & Grove and J. Walter Thompson. Thirty years of experience in the supermarket business, creating campaigns for A&P, Winn-Dixie and Price Chopper and a dozen others.


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