- Whole Foods has issued a request for proposals as it seeks out a new creative agency, according to Ad Age. The retailer, which is set to be acquired by Amazon for $13.7 billion, has employed New York-based Partners & Spade as its agency since 2014.
- The company’s CEO John Mackey stated in a recent conference call that Whole Foods would increase its spending on marketing and advertising as it seeks to overcome its “Whole Paycheck” image. Last year, the retailer hired a new global marketing vice president. In January, a new firm was selected to oversee its media planning and buying.
- Whole Foods ran its first national marketing campaign three years ago. Called “Values Matter,” the campaign ran TV, print and digital ads that connected the retailer’s food to the people who make it.
Amazon’s deep pockets and efficiency expertise will go a long way towards lowering Whole Foods’ prices. But to truly overcome its “Whole Paycheck” image, the pioneering natural and organic retailer also needs a strong marketing push.
For years, Whole Foods shunned traditional advertising and marketing campaigns. The company figured its values spoke loudly enough, and stellar sales meant it didn’t need to spend the extra money. But as growth slowed and its price image took one hit after another, Whole Foods realized it needed to invest in some solid messaging. Thus, the “Values Matter" campaign was born.
That campaign and others that followed have done much to convey Whole Foods’ core values to customers. But farmer profiles and taglines exhorting the company’s health commitment have done little to change its reputation for high prices. With new management promising to support lower prices from the business end, Whole Foods now needs a new creative agency to position its image accordingly.
How much might Whole Foods’ image change under a new agency? Quite a bit. Whole Foods needs to convey value and convince shoppers it’s not the same company they’ve long known. The grocer also needs to appeal to more young, affluent consumers. This might necessitate a lighter tone than its usual “values” messaging, and could even veer towards quirky, humorous campaigns.
Of course, Whole Foods won’t want to completely overhaul its image, considering the strength of its brand and its many loyal “Whole Foodie” customers. Walking that fine line between its core mission and the need to expand has always been a challenge for the company, and it will continue to be one as the retailer reworks its corporate image.