How To Turn A Brand Negative To Your Advantage (Whole Foods vs. Trader Joe's)

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My mother's cellphone rang about ten times before she finally picked it up.

"What is it?" she spoke all dreamy-like into the phone. "I'm in Whole Foods."

I got it immediately. Whole Foods has that effect on me as well: Nobody is allowed to interrupt the trance.

Normally we're a lively set of Chatty Cathys. us two. But since she was in the equivalent of food synagogue I let her go fast.

"It's alright Ma," I said, laughing. "I'll call you later."

What is your favorite part of Whole Foods? For me there are almost too many to list:

* The delicious natural food bar and hot soups

* The good-smelling natural soaps they have stacked up by the deli

* The "core values" sign near the front of the store

* The fact that I know whatever I buy is going to taste good

* The way they manage to make plain old fruits and vegetables so appealing

But one of the things I love the most is not even inside the store: the "Whole Deal Value Guide."

Never have I seen a weekly sales flyer used so effectively as this little booklet printed on newsprint. Even Trader Joe's "Fearless Flyer" - which is pretty good - doesn't come close.

Here's the similarity: Both use the flier for brand reinforcement -

* Trader Joe's version shows us that they sell fun, unusual, interesting and delicious food, that's affordable. Nice!

* Whole Foods' version conveys that its food is not only healthy but, among other things, sustainable and ethically produced.

Here's where Whole Foods goes above and beyond:

In my opinion the #1 brand negative for this company is the perception of overpricing.

Especially in a bad economy people don't want to pay more than they have to for anything. And they are angry when they feel they are being cheated - could get the same product for a similar price.

Whole Foods could ignore this perception and simply say, in effect, "Too bad on you - our kind of customer is willing to pay more."

Instead, they actively attack the possible negative perception and use their flyer to:

* Show you how to save money when shopping at the store - pointing out sales and coupons.

* Teach you how to live a healthier lifestyle - providing healthy recipes so you can cook easily and well for yourself and your family.

The end result is the perception that Whole Foods is on a mission to change the way all Americans eat - not just the elite.

In effect, they use the flier to open up the brand community - and in the process win goodwill from those who don't necessarily want to spend $6 for a little-looking pouch of gluten-free granola.

The next time you recognize that someone has bad feedback for your brand, think strategically about whether you ignore it or leverage it into a positive branding/marketing tool - one that can amplify your reach without watering down your distinctive brand message.

Have a good evening everyone, and good luck!


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