Whole Foods, Whole Marketing: Getting Digital Right

WHole Foods

Image from: Whole Foods Market / Shutterstock

As a part of Millward Brown, we believe that a company’s brand should be at its core – and as Millward Brown Digital, we want brand strategy and digital execution to be in tandem. So what about the most iconic grocer in an ever-growing healthy-eating subculture?

Whole Foods’ brand is certainly powerful offline, but it’s just as strong online! The mot juste is “whole,” as their digital strategy reflects their all-encompassing message.

Let’s take a closer look at what parts make up the whole (pun entirely intended).

Making Local the new National

The entire premise of “whole” foods rests heavily on the local sphere. It’s responsible food — both socially and nutritionally.

So how does a chain operating more than 350 stores internationally maintain that vibe? Interior decorations and locally-grown produce aside, the natural food vendor also operates Facebook and Twitter accounts for virtually every single branch of the franchise (in addition to overarching product-specific accounts, such as for wines and cheeses).

WFM Twitter


What’s so great about this strategy? For one, they can take a look at their global community and see who’s interested in their brand — but Whole Foods can also engage with customers on a personal basis and be more relevant to shoppers. In tailoring their social experience to specific locations or interests, they foster deeper connections.

Incoming Traffic WFM

After search and email giants Google and Yahoo, Whole Foods’ incoming traffic sees a healthy portion from social media leaders Facebook and Twitter.

“Whole”-istic Content

Marketers have been hearing that “content is king” for quite some time now. Now, that’s completely fine — but the question is… is your content worth a regal title? For Whole Foods Market, it is. The chain has a number of channels of communication with their consumers beyond their numerous Twitter accounts. Take a look at how each version gets digital right!

Email Marketing

If you refer back to the above chart, you can see that three email companies direct traffic to wholefoodsmarket.com. That means clickthroughs — and a strong number of them! In any email marketing campaign, you’ll want to make sure you’re not wasting your time. With behavioral data like this, you can see whether your mail is making an impact. For Whole Foods, it certainly is.

WFM Newsletter Subs

Another thing they do well is tailoring email subscriptions. The image above is your dashboard, should you choose to subscribe. How many emails and/or what content you receive is entirely up to you! With email marketing, there’s always a sweet spot between oversending and undersending, so by putting this decision in the hands of consumers, Whole Foods won’t annoy their mailing list.


Almost every company has a blog now — but there are a few things that contribute to success. Regular updates, great content, and basic writing skills are integral to a good blog. Whole Foods meets all these criteria and ensure that their content is relevant to their audience’s lifestyles and interests.

In addition to the blog, the grocer also updates a recipe site, listing ingredients found in their stores. It’s a great way to inspire sales of new or unique products — while also providing basic content that anyone on the internet can benefit from!

Digital Magazine

Dark Rye

A gorgeous, visually appealing webzine graces the screen space of darkrye.com. WFM’s very own quality content generator. The stunning graphics and responsive layout master the new world of digital visual presentation – go Whole Foods!

Mobile/Tablet Apps

WFM Apps

Whole Foods Market has a total of 3 apps on the market: one for their recipes, another for Dark Rye, and an adorable game to teach children to eat wholesomely. What’s so awesome about that?

  1. Recipes on-the-go are perfect for ingredient runs at your local franchise — having a tailored shopping list in your pocket certainly helps.
  2. The tablet-friendly version of their webzine makes for solid multiscreen viewing.
  3. Parents who shop Whole Foods are more than likely to impose the same dietary virtues on their offspring. This last app kills two birds with one stone: it entertains the kids while promoting healthy living.

These apps essentially optimize Whole Foods’ ‘whole lifestyle’ content for an increasingly mobile world!

Online Shopping

If shopping in-store isn’t enough (or possible), Whole Foods offers local delivery options from your neighborhood’s branch. At a time when ecommerce poses a potential threat to physical retail outlets, the grocer charges ahead with their delivery service! This is brilliant for city dwellers and the elderly — and also secures Whole Foods’ spot in the online shopping market.

Getting Digital Right

To make a long story short, Whole Foods masters marketing strategy. Every channel (social, mobile, email, ecommerce, etc) stays committed to the brand, resulting in highly unified, cohesive messaging.

Don’t put your brand and digital marketing in separate silos! Make sure they’re in-sync to offer the best your company can give. That’s how you #GetDigitalRight.

Last but not least — learn more by joining our webinar on Wednesday, June 4 at 2pm! Follow this link for more information and registration.

All of the awesome data in this article comes from Compete PRO, which provides behavioral data from an online consumer panel of ~2 million. See the metrics we measure and understand how you — and your competitors — are doing digitally!

About Johanna Gunawan:
A Political Science/International Affairs sophomore at Northeastern University, Johanna joins Millward Brown Digital as the spring '14 Digital Marketing Co-op. Apart from her interest in digital infrastructure and her majors; Johanna enjoys absurd quantities of imported coffee, haggling for cheap flights, and constantly editing her website. Find her on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.