As it prepares to cut prices and ahead of its planned acquisition by Amazon, Whole Foods Market is on the hunt for a new creative agency. The Austin, Texas-based company, which has worked with New York-based Partners & Spade since 2014, has issued a request for proposals.
A company spokeswoman confirmed that the 37-year-old grocer is searching for a new agency but declined to comment further. Earlier this month, Whole Foods sent the retail world into an uproar when it announced Amazon would buy it for $13.7 billion, creating one universal tech-food giant to (potentially) rule them all.
On a recent conference call to announce second-quarter earnings, Whole Foods CEO John Mackey noted that the 466-unit chain plans to lower its prices in an effort to gain traction with consumers and shed any negative baggage (wags call it "whole paycheck") associated with unaffordability. New marketing to spread the word should help drive more sales growth, Mackey noted.
"We think our marketing initiatives, particularly our advertising, is going to compound over time," he said. For the quarter, Whole Foods reported total sales of $3.7 billion, a 1.1% rise over the year-earlier period. Net income was $99 million, though same-store sales fell 2.8%.
The company has been gearing up for a marketing push. Late last year, it hired Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, a former Sam's Club marketing veteran, as global VP-marketing. Then in January, Whole Foods tapped WPP-owned MediaCom to handle its national media planning and buying, after a competitive review that included six agencies for the $60-million-plus account.
Three years ago, Whole Foods debuted its first national brand campaign, "Values Matter," with Partners & Spade. That push, which included TV, print and digital marketing, was meant to highlight both food and those who produce it. A representative from Partners & Spade did not respond to a request for comment. The agency lists Whole Foods as a client on its website.