June 18, 2015
Whole Foods Corrects its Brand Mistak
It’s hard to be a big brand these days, especially when you’re trying to communicate with millennials. With so many recommendations flying around, it’s easy to lose sight of your brand’s values in hopes of winning over a sought after audience.
When Whole Foods announced its plans to open a new line of stores targeting millennial shoppers, they focused on the cheap food options and high-tech gadgets they would have, and ended up alienating the millennials they were targeting.
Whole Foods seems to have turned things around, starting with the name of the new stores, 365 by Whole Foods Market. The name will be familiar to loyal customers, referencing the company’s “Everyday Value” products. And the new concept was introduced as a “value-focused brand” – without ever mentioning millennials.  
The highs and lows of the Whole Foods announcement revealed two important lessons every brand should take to heart when trying to reach any demographic.
Stick To What You’re Good At
Whole Foods thought connecting with millennials meant using buzzwords to describe their new store, rather than focusing on the quality of its food. Connecting is really about being honest and upfront about who you are. By emphasizing traits that weren’t core to its brand, Whole Foods missed an opportunity to promote the values that have differentiated them from the start.
Own Your Brand Story
In today’s social media-driven world, it’s impossible to communicate in a vacuum. What you say to one group – like baby boomer investors on an earnings call – is almost guaranteed to make its way to a wider audience, including the demographic you’re so eager to target. And if your message isn’t consistent, you can expect to be called out on it. In this case, Whole Foods could have leveraged their description of the 365 Everyday Value line to make their investor relations language more consumer-friendly.
Communicating with millennials shouldn’t be daunting, but it shouldn’t be oversimplified either. The good news is that millennials aren’t some alien race; they’re just people. The bad news is that there are enough key differences that you need to get your communication just right in order to break through. Whole Foods got it right eventually.  Will you?
Special thanks to Clint Sievers, Michael Rohn, and Paige Arthur for their help with this post.

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