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Are Brand Options a Benefit?
By: Janet Kalandranis
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The first step of building a successful brand is to have a concept that is specific and delivers a certain promise to a set of customers. For Whole Foods, this is the brand’s ability to deliver healthy organic foods to the middle-class set. Or maybe those a little higher than middle class. Because Whole Foods is known to be more expensive in order to deliver a higher quality grocery product. True or not, this is the perception and there’s a certain “type” of customer that is the core audience. It’s been accepted, it’s a great concept, and it delivers on a promise. Now Whole Foods is expanding. No, not more stores, but a new concept. What?!? It’s okay; let’s break down the new idea and see if it’s a new path to success or one that strays from its core brand promise.

In 2013 and 2014 Whole Foods will be opening a new concept of its stores in lower-income areas — Chicago, Detroit and New Orleans. The new concept has fewer staff, lower prices, and includes more frozen and pre-packaged options. So yes, this is different than the original Whole Foods that many customers know. But in the brand’s mind, this concept allows the company to reach more customers and become accessible to those families that are more price conscious. So shifting the Whole Foods concept a bit brings the balance of healthier options at more affordable prices. Makes sense. Seems like the brand will be able to create different types of stores. But what does this mean to the brand that was originally created, the one that long-time customers are used to? Will they accept the adoption of a new concept or will they feel the brand sold out?

These are the questions that are being asked, and quite honestly it makes sense. But Whole Foods is doing good here. Bringing the option of healthier food to those that want it, but have a harder time making it work within their means. So looking at it in this sense, the brand is actually extending its original concept and making it work across the board. Oh, and remember that not-so-quiet debate about obesity? Yeah, Whole Foods is trying to do good here too. The brand isn’t diluting a message, but instead making it more relevant for more people and pushing accessibility to the top of the list. So no, customers shouldn’t feel any differently about the brand, except maybe a little more food love.

And when Whole Foods launched this idea the brand didn’t think it would take right away. The brand understands the perception it holds with higher pricing so it did something about this. Whole Foods is educating customers on buying whole grains and items that cost less while also still being healthy. And the brand is able to push its 365 generic line a bit more since it makes sense for this concept. So it’s not a sell-out; Whole Foods is not changing its brand, but instead making it more accessible and more relevant for all of today’s consumers.

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About the Author
Janet Kalandranis is here to give you all the little brand thoughts that run through her head with a little dash of spice. Find her online here.
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