Whole Foods Unveils First Campaign Following Amazon Acquisition

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Whole Foods Market's first marketing campaign since its $13.7 billion acquisition by Amazon last August is out, and the first batch of spots seem targeted at a distinctly young, decidedly quirky demographic.

Under the tagline "Whatever Makes You Whole," the new push includes the tale of a bearded vegan-turned-paleo and his carnivorous needs; a dad who loads up his cart but forgets his real reason for being there (diapers); and a milquetoast-looking dude who wants some cheese, but has no idea what kind.

The emphasis on shoppers and Whole Foods staffers may help Whole Foods shed the "whole paycheck" baggage that has plagued it for years; such a reputation is no longer as accurate now that the chain is owned by lower-price-touting Amazon.

"Historically, we've been focused as a brand on telling our story in terms of our quality differential," explains Sonya Gafsi Oblisk, who joined Whole Foods as global VP of marketing two years ago after a stint at Walmart-owned Sam's Club. "This campaign was really intended to move the brand to a much more human place ... but also have a strong nod to the individuality and diversity of everyone that loves the brand."

When Amazon released fourth-quarter earnings late last week, it noted $4.5 billion in revenue for the period from physical stores, largely from Whole Foods' 477 locations. Overall, the Seattle-based e-commerce giant posted $60.5 billion in net sales for the quarter and its largest profit, $1.9 billion, to date. In a talk with analysts last week, Chief Financial Officer Brian Olsavsky said Whole Foods has gotten two rounds of price cuts in recent months, which have resulted in increased demand for products.

Amazon is also working on better integrating Whole Foods benefits for Amazon Prime members.

Whole Foods, which is based in Austin, worked with MullenLowe LA on the new work. The grocer appointed Mullen its creative agency of record last October following a competitive review that pre-dated its purchase by Amazon. MediaCom, which was appointed Whole Foods' media agency last year, handled media planning duties.

While Oblisk declined to specify how much Whole Foods is spending on its new push, she confirmed it is the brand's largest campaign investment to date. Last year, Whole Foods spent around $14 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

The new advertising, including national TV, radio, digital and out-of-home, starts Feb. 5 and runs throughout 2018. Whole Foods produced around 15 15- and 30-second spots for the first round of production; five commercials will air this month.

Since Whole Foods was acquired, many consumers have expressed concern that the brand would not continue to use local vendors in its supply chain. Oblisk notes that the company remains "committed to local producers and local products."

Last week, the chain also came under fire for a new inventory management system that scores employees, which has led to much consternation among staffers, according to a Business Insider article. A Whole Foods representative declined to comment.

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