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Martin Lindstrom recently introduced a new book, Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy. In the book, Lindstrom explores how supermarkets persuade customers to spend more on average shopping trips. Whole Foods, he claims, is the industry leader in using unconscious suggestions, or symbolism, to increase the customer’s perception of freshness at the store. Lindstrom says that retailers are the masters of seduction.

Some of the symbolic that Whole Foods uses include:

Fresh-cut flowers: Whole Foods positions its flowers at the store entrance. These flowers represent freshness; Whole Foods hopes that customers carry the connection of freshness throughout their shopping experience.

Chalk boards: Whole Foods uses chalk boards throughout the store to advertise prices and specials. In European marketplaces, vendors use chalk boards to show the prices of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Whole Foods uses chalk boards to simulate the local market experience.

Pictures of fruit: Grocers use pictures of fresh fruit on their juice containers with hopes that customers will think of the juice as fresh off the vine rather than from concentrate.

Cardboard boxes- Rather than placing produce in traditional produce bins, Whole Foods uses cardboard boxes for that fresh-off-the-farm appeal.

Ice/ mistiness: Whole Foods covers certain foods in chipped ice to convey freshness and purity. Other grocers also sprinkle some vegetables with water to create the same effect.

Discussion Questions:

1. What merchandising “tricks” does Whole Foods employ to get people to buy more?

2. Which do you believe are most effective?

3. What merchandising techniques do other stores employ to encourage add-on sales?

Source: Tom Ryan, “Brandwashed at Whole Foods,” RetailWire, October 14, 2011.

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