There are apparently two kinds of people: Whole Foods lovers and Whole Foods haters. The lovers are about as devoted as consumers get. The haters, not so much. Can the Amazon acquisition narrow the divide? And does that mean opportunity for all of the brands that are sold at WF and on Amazon? And what can we as marketers learn from this incredibly polarizing brand?

Whole Foods is already just plain Irresistible

In our latest I-Factor®study, benchmarking 7 leading retailers and 1400 consumers, we uncovered fascinating insights about Whole Foods.  It was no surprise that Whole Foods is THE MOST Irresistible brand in the study. Those that prefer Whole Foods are hands-down devoted. It’s cult-like loyalty. Consumers are quick to declare their love and willingness to pay for it. So what’s the secret sauce?

According to our I-Factor scale™, brands need pretty high scores in all 3 Cs (Comprehend, Crave and Crave) to boast true Irresistibility: We created this approach to look at the entirety of the relationship consumers have with brands TODAY. The study gives brands real data to fill in the relationship gaps and create the change brands need to reach true Irresistibility. Think of the 3 C’s this way. Comprehend measures what consumers know. Crave, how they feel, and Craze, what they do.

So how does Whole Foods measure up?

For loyalists, Whole Foods is an extension of how consumers see themselves

Out of all the retail brands we benchmarked, Whole Foods had the highest “Badge” score. Why? Because “Whole Foods truly resonates with their consumers.” Much of their strong consumer connection comes down to shared values and extreme relevance. And no brand can match the experience Whole Foods has created. It proves there is real power in taking a stance and standing for something.

But Whole foods is polarizing. They also had the lowest score among the non-preferrers we surveyed.

The lovers and haters are at opposite ends of the bell curve. In fact, there’s a 29 point difference in the overall I-Factor®score between the two groups-the biggest gap for any brand in the category. Those who choose not to shop at Whole Foods have equally strong opinions of the brand.

Can Amazon make Whole Foods even more Irresistible

There’s a widespread belief that the Amazon acquisition will allow Whole Foods to sell to more consumers for less money, giving new populations access to healthier foods. Will that be the tipping point for Whole Foods? Whole Foods has never been all things to all people, but this could allow them to reach consumers who have previously rejected the brand. The art will be getting new lovers without diluting their positioning and alienating the loyalists.

Can Whole Foods turn haters into lovers?

Some of our data could point Whole Foods in a specific direction. While they have exceptionally high scores in Comprehend and Crave, they are definitely lacking in Craze. Meaning as much as consumers love Whole Foods, they are not wearing or sharing that with others. Their “buzz” score, even among lovers, is surprisingly low.

Today the strongest, most Irresistible brands not only connect with their consumers, they move them to work on their behalf. They become part of consumers’ personal brands. Amazon will open the door to the haters, but I believe that if Whole Foods could inspire their best consumers to go from lovers to advocates, they could seal the deal.

Want to find out what your brand can learn from your lovers AND your haters? Let’s talk.

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