Sunday, March 23, 2014


Whole Foods Market does a brilliant job marketing via social media.

Grocery shopping as a topic can be deadly boring. Food talk can become heavy and preachy when it’s tied to issues like nutrition, health, worker rights or eco-friendly farming. Yet, Whole Foods embraces all of these and more - and does so in ways that are fascinating – even fun. How? Through upbeat, visually-driven storytelling.

Indeed, most of the company's posts are mini stories about a product, recipe, employee news, or issue. Presented with an appealing photo, some compelling copy, and a link to richer content archived on Whole Foods blog, each post aims to educate and inspire customers to shop, eat, and live really well.

Not that there’s not a lot of selling going on; every post is a sales pitch, after all. However, Whole Foods' style of selling is decidedly soft – consistently so across its social network that includes Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, YouTube, and more. 

The company does a great job tailoring its stories to each platform's strength. Let's look at how Whole Foods does this on Facebook:

Color, color everywhere 

Facebook itself is a pretty bland environment, which makes scrolling down a colorless timeline awfully tedious. That's not a problem for the 1.4 million fans who visit Whole Foods' main Facebook page for its vivid stream of posts featuring products, recipes, tips, news, promotions, and more. Photos are always intriguing and very colorful - so sharp and detailed they almost pop off the page. 

The same holds for posts that feature punchy graphic design. These posts catch your eye and then your imagination.  

Eye and appetite appeal 

You won't see slick advertising shots here. Food photos have easy-breezy eye appeal like what you'd see on a foodie blog. Recipes are meticulously styled, so every image is beautiful and appetizing. A short narrative gets you thinking, "Gee, I should make that." One click takes you to a related story or video on the company's blog that shows you how. Now that's integrated marketing.

"New on Aisle 5 ..."

Package shots are usually taken right in a Whole Foods store, not a studio. This post promoting a new bagged popcorn was shot smack in the snacks aisle. Yep, we like the package design alright - and seeing the photographer's hand adds a nice real-time touch. The accompanying story tells us this product contains Fair Trade ingredients - a Whole Foods mandate. Makes you feel good - and a bit hungry.   

Eye-grabbing Infographics 

Infographics on Whole Foods' timeline do double-duty, combining how-to tips with visual pizzazz. Case in point: This clever infographic teaches you how to cut a mango in 3 easy steps. Click on it and you land on a blog feature with mango recipes and more serving tips. Anyone who hasn't tried mangoes before certainly has good reason now. 

Visual Stories Sell Hard, Softly

Old-school TV and print advertising is relentlessly intrusive and self-serving. Marketing via social media requires a softer, more personal and engaging approach. Whole Foods succeeds at this by posting real, uplifting, and compelling stories that educate customers and get them excited about trying new foods, and eating foods that are tastier and healthier. 

Importantly, once you become a Whole Foods fan you won't feel much like grocery shopping anywhere else, right?

Job done. 

The next post in this series will look at how Whole Foods Market tells stories in pictures curated on Pinterest. 

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