Whole Foods Launches Earth Month Festival

take plate Whole Foods Market, which has long positioned itself as the thought leader in the organic foods movement, wants to take America to the movies. The retailer is sponsoring a month-long "Let's Retake Our Plates" initiative, screening 15 educational food films in markets across the country.

The selected films focus on "the challenges and realities of the industrialized food system," the Austin, Texas-based company says in its release. The list includes "Food, Inc.," an Academy Award nominee this year in the documentary category, "King Corn" and "No Impact Man," as well as a few sci-fi classics, like "Soylent Green" (1973) and "Silent Running" (1972.)

It's a smart move, Michael Solomon, marketing professor and director of the Center for Consumer Research at St. Joseph's University, tells Marketing Daily. "It's a natural thing to do, since they are already in that position of educating consumers, and it's not at all controversial -- they are preaching to the choir," he says.



And as we are coming out of the recession, he says, it's a chance for Whole Foods -- a marketer that has never been able to compete on price, despite a few nods to the economy during the worst of the recession -- "to switch the conversation away from a value argument back to a quality argument."

A spokesperson for the chain says that in addition to social media and in-store marketing, the chain will use local and regional PR efforts as well to generate awareness of the 150-plus screenings.

"Our goal is to help open people's eyes to the reality of what's going on with food in our world," Mara Fleishman, global project leader of the "Let's Retake Our Plates" initiative, says in the release. "Whole Foods Market has been committed to improving our food system for 30 years, and this is a great way to gather together to understand that every dollar spent in a grocery store is not the same. Conscious food choices can make a difference."

Perhaps the boldest part of its announcement is Whole Foods' invention of a new term: Earth Month. Earth Day, which celebrates its 40th birthday this year, is April 22, and the many events on and around that day are often referred to as Earth Week. And of course, Earth Hour, a global initiative of the World Wildlife Fund, was last weekend.

"But if Whole Foods wants to celebrate the earth for a whole month, we think that's great," says a spokesperson for the Washington, D.C.-based Earth Day Network.

Earth Day continues to attract consumer and marketer support. This year, Earth Day Network expects one billion people in 190 countries to take some action on behalf of Earth Day 2010. Last week, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment announced that it would plant 1 million trees this year, and the DVD/Blu-Ray version of its "Avatar" will be released on Earth Day.

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  1. Doug Pruden from Customer Experience Partners, March 30, 2010 at 12:05 p.m.

    Whether you choose to look at it as education or propaganda, Whole Foods customer video series regarding "the challenges and realities of the industrialized food system" sounds like smart marketing.

    I do hope however that their goal is not to “switch the conversation away from a value argument back to a quality argument" as Professor Solomon suggests. I hope that they have not fallen into the trap of thinking that “Value” means low price, and that “quality” and “value” are somehow opposite ends of some spectrum. Check your dictionary. “Value” is defined as “worth, merit or usefulness”.

    So it’s not either value or quality. The issue is really what consumers see as the best value for them. For some that’s always the lowest price. For others that’s always the highest quality. For most consumers it’s somewhere in between. They decide on the WORTH (or value) of the product or service before buying by consciously or sub-consciously running a quick trade-off in their mind. They compare the product or service experience (the quality, variety, customer service, comfort level, convenience of location, hours of operation, cleanliness, safety, and even the width of the aisles and color of the walls) with the costs (perhaps challenges in learning a new store layout, inconvenience in parking, added time required to travel to a more distant location, and yes, certainly price). It leads them to decide which product to buy, or in this case which store they will shop at.

    The consumer is always picking up new information and re-weighting the factors. In a bad economy, when unemployment runs above 10%, price may carry greater weight in the trade-off calculation. But for most consumers it’s unlikely that quality, variety, or any of the factors ever become totally meaningless in the value equation.

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