Lessons from a marketing champion

Whole Foods’ marketing campaign used print, social media and direct mail to create a can’t-miss grand opening.



Billboard advertising played an integral part in Whole Foods’ marketing campaign for its Novato, California, grand opening.

As a marketing expert and lover of all things marketing, I take the time to review many brands’ marketing campaigns. And when a campaign goes above and beyond all expectations, I try to share it so that others can learn from it. Whole Foods, a leader in the sustainable, natural and local segment of the grocery marketplace, recently created an integrated marketing campaign for its Novato, California, grand opening that is well-deserving of praise. The chain wove a campaign that integrated specific brand messages with print, direct mail and social media while involving the entire community. It’s integrated marketing at its best, and, for me, it reached even closer to home because Whole Foods is located near my house. It was impossible not to notice this great campaign in the mail, on the street, in the newspaper and in my email inbox. I’m sharing the details with you so you can take their ideas and try them out with your pizzeria!

To celebrate Whole Foods’ arrival in Novato, the company started off with a pre-grand-opening party, called a Community Taste Fair, held four days before the grand opening event. This included free food, vendor promotions through sampling and live music. The grand opening itself was held on Earth Day, with a community-wide “bread breaking” party for members of the Chamber of Commerce and the city council, plus performers from the local high school and more free food.

Take a look at the various media outlets Whole Foods used to spread the word of the events:

Print advertising. Whole Foods placed a full-page color display ad in the local newspaper two days prior to the pre-grand-opening event. It featured a coupon for $10 off of a $50 purchase or more, plus an artist’s rendering of downtown Novato to promote community pride. The company also offered coupons on the front page of the newspaper each Wednesday, which happens to be the day that the paper’s weekly food section appears.

Freestanding inserts (FSIs). Rather than a typical FSI, Whole Foods inserted its full-color company newsletter into the local newspaper. It offered tips for using Whole Foods products, new product information, recipe ideas, value items and coupons sponsored by Whole Foods vendors.

Direct mailers. The front of the piece displayed the date of the grand opening and the store’s address, hours of business and phone number, along with the same artist’s rendering of the town itself. On the inside, Whole Foods explained its mission and touted local partnerships and special prices on products. Coupons were featured on the back of the piece, but these coupons were designed to be redeemed eight weeks after the grand opening to continue driving sales and traffic to the new store.

Social media. Whole Foods used Facebook to cross-promote the pre-grand-opening and grand-opening events and to create a following of local customers. The company also sent out an email invitation to Novato residents.

Outdoor advertisement. The company took advantage of advertising space at a bus stop located across the street from its store. The ad invited riders to drop in and eat if the bus was running late.
Arrow spinners. To attract attention, professional arrow spinners performed in the parking lot.

Community partnerships. To foster goodwill in the community, Whole Foods partnered with local vendors of dairy products, baked goods, produce and seafood for the event. These partnerships were promoted in the direct mailer and social media outlets and with in-store signage. The company also worked with the local high school to bring in young performers for free entertainment.

How does this sort of campaign attract customers? For starters, it got the community involved and made locals, from kids to grown-ups, feel like a part of the Whole Foods family from the beginning. It integrated free food and sampling—always a big draw—and used specific messaging and multiple media strategies to both drive sales and promote the brand. The company also showed its commitment to local partners and demonstrated social awareness by hosting the grand opening party on Earth Day.

All in all, Whole Foods used a smart integrated strategy to become a good corporate citizen and throw a noteworthy grand-opening celebration that locals wouldn’t want to miss. This campaign helped the company define its brand to the town of Novato and create a buzz that will hopefully bring in customers for a long time to come.

Linda Duke is the CEO of Duke Marketing and author of Recipes for Restaurateurs (marketing-cookbook.com), a “cookbook” of marketing ideas for restaurant owners, as well as The LSM Diet: Improve Your Bottom Line, Not Your Waistline (lsmdiet.com), a self-help guide to local store marketing. She publishes a quarterly industry resource, Restaurant Marketing Magazine, and an educational program, LSM-U, Local Store Marketing University. Find out more at dukemarketing.com.

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