Whole Foods Market
By Harrison Malone
I never saw it coming.
A grocery shop I actually want to BE in. It wasn’t like the usual grab, pay and go home. It was all about comfort and pleasure. Taking in the smells from the hot bread and soup stands. Examining the weird labels on organic bottles of tomato sauce and beers.
It reminded me of an Apple store but for food. Blue shirts were swapped for black aprons. People asked questions. They got taste tests instead of tech tests. And more importantly it knew what it wanted to BE which makes it the ideal supermarket to examine through our BE brands filter.
It was at the Richmond store on the outskirts of Greater London where my initial Whole Foods Market brand experience occurred. What caught my attention instantly was the positive body language exhibited by the staff. Chefs, shelf stockers and check out chicks. They all acted in a manner that made me feel like this place mattered. Their behaviour was passionate and never sales orientated. When approached they looked genuinely pleased to be asked.
Through this general behaviour I was shocked at how quickly I wanted to belong to their tribe. I wanted to go there all the time. I wanted to live nearby. And that is the power of BE brands. People will do crazy illogical things for them because they are deep emotional experiences which make sense of who we are. When it comes to belief that’s exactly what we as consumers want. Experience matters.
Whole Foods Market is a mission driven organisation and you really get of sense of that when clicking through to their website. Here is its company information page which tells me a lot about their story. What immediately sticks is that their beliefs are so simple. They have natural foods, they maintain strict quality standards, and they are committed to sustainable agriculture.
But what makes them special?
Its this excitement and fun that they bring to shopping for groceries. The bottom line is that they want to show people it’s good to care and be passionate about supermarket shopping. In a market, especially in Australia, where price so often turns grocery shopping into a rational chore, Whole Foods Market has made it romantic, emotional and engaging.
The social truth is that supermarket shopping is by and large boring. We all want to BE somewhere that is far less corporate, that feels smaller and more human. Take the farmer’s market phenomenon as an example of this. Thousands of people seek these farmers markets every weekend to get closer to the creator of the produce they serve at home. We’re looking for real engagement and farmers markets deliver that.
As does Whole Foods Market on a grand scale.
Courage and Substance
I’m hungry for a supermarket that takes risks and tries to BE different. Take Woolworths and Coles for instance. You don’t even know if you’re in one or the other half the time. All food experiences should be fun, whether we buy to cook later or eat it then and there. They should be tailored to our needs and that is what Whole Foods understands.
Its obvious how absolutely committed the Whole Foods staff are to delivering on the promise of being personal. From the ready made food stalls to the colloquial way in which each raw product is described. And people love it.
I remember seeing other customers order ingredients they’d like for a fresh burrito. Store made right there in front of you. Jam packed full of beans, rice and guacamole. It made my stomach rumble and I couldn’t resist. I behaved impulsively and bought one.
When a brand gets this experiential formula right, people naturally want in.
A BE brand is a brand that’s advocated and talked about by its tribe. Take this LinkedIn article by Gabriel Wong as case in point.
The use of the word tribe here describes a consumer who belongs to a particular brand and more generally to the world around them. It’s the most fundamental aspect to human existence because of the innate craving in all of us to fit in, to be part of a tribe, to feel welcome. And because of this Whole Foods write up Gabriel becomes this kind of tribe leader. Its marketing of the most powerful nature. A phrase like “we desperately need you” is not written lightly.
The other aspect to a tribe is providing its members ways to show they BElong through what they own or purchase. I walked out the door with my green Whole Foods Market bag and I felt cool. I felt happy for others to see I’d been to Whole Foods Market. I felt like I got value beyond the price I payed because the green bag said something good about me. This is what BE brands is all about.
You can probably get a similar product at another store down the street for half the cost. But by choosing only to shop at your average Joe has none of the brand rub off that Whole Foods Market does.
Through its beliefs, Whole Foods Market creates like mindedness in its loyal customer base. It’s a sense of belonging that goes way beyond price.
Social media. It’s a tough market to crack because of its unpredictability and the ease at which consumers can publicise their complaints. Whilst Whole Foods Market has to deal with a lot of the negative it’s outweighed by compliments and success stories.
The hashtag #wholefoodsmarket on Instagram is the prime location for the latter.
It’s Whole Foods Market cashing in on what is extremely relevant right now; people taking pictures and wanting to show off their beautiful gourmet meals. In this day and age it’s our social media accounts that represent the brands we use. We want to show them off and be liked by our peer group.
The consumer doesn’t just generally feel like they belong, they tangibly belong to the Whole Foods Market hashtag. Once you have this kind of dedication to your brand the hard work is done. They will behave accordingly, usually with their wallets again and again. It’s the reward BE that takes years to refine.
Whole Foods Market in Australia?
Now you might be wondering whether or not we’ll ever get this wonderful BE brand on home soil. So I asked them. Here’s the response.
The recent influx of grocery brands in Australia is making the race to the bottom on price the only real offering for Australian grocery buyers. For Whole Foods to enter the market would give shoppers a completely different experiential approach to shopping.
In other words, we at BE brands think it would be a profitable move.
Take my local supermarket Leaf which has tried to capture some elements at the heart of the Whole Foods brand. It has a farmers market vibe. Fresh produce sits atop wooden frames that look rustic, foreign cheeses line and deli and hard to find craft beers are chilled in the fridge. Yet it falls on deaf ears because it lacks this spark.
It’s the same old boring stock towards the back of the store which while necessary, contradicts what is boldly displayed out front. It’s almost as if half the store is trying really hard to BE different yet the other half just got lazy and gave up. I must admit that when I ventured into the store it was busy. There is something there that is working.
A caveat I’d quickly like to touch on is the layout of the Whole Foods home page. In terms of its BE appeal it still has some room for improvement. Whilst the content is by no means bad or useless it’s just not delivered in the right manner.
I’m happy for them to provide recipe ideas as this could really help people. However, I feel like it’s on the verge of information overload. It takes away from the beliefs which are hidden away in the footer section.
Whole Foods beliefs should be the first thing you see. No ifs or buts. Then we can buy and learn things about the product. This beliefs first approach is achieved at MVMT which perhaps is a product you’ll hear about in another article.