Whole Foods Launches Sustainable Living E-Zine

Discussion
Mar 13, 2012

Whole Foods Market has launched an online magazine that explores food, art, health and sustainable living. The content includes video, photography, recipes and articles from "mentors and inventors" in the artisanal and sustainable living movement.

In its introduction, the editors of Dark Rye describe the e-magazine as "good clean dirt, artistic sparks, and an open channel to other people like us. It’s put together by some of us at Whole Foods Market, but the only thing we’re peddling is stories of ingenuity."

The introduction continued, "We like pioneers who swim against the tide of sameness. We’ll bring you architects, mixologists, brewers, engineers, musicians, sommeliers, landscape designers, furniture-makers, skate park builders, and locavores. We’ll seek out the stories of gastropub chefs trained on the back roads of Thailand, and lakeside cabin-keepers with crackling fires and an open door to slower, more intentional days. We’re constantly awed by the creativity and curiosity of our friends — people who make life more sustainable and more decadent."

Dark Rye’s first three videos will be premiered at the South by Southwest, the music and a film festival being held this week in Austin, TX, the retailer’s hometown.

"Dark Rye explores the creative edges of artisanal and sustainable living," said Vadan Less, video content director at Whole Foods Market, in a statement. "The people featured have a curiosity and enthusiasm for life that motivates them to create something fulfilling. By debuting Dark Rye at SXSW, we hope attendees will take a moment to experience the site and see what resonates with them."

The videos will be shown in the "Green Zone," a free admission area at the festival Whole Foods is sponsoring that also embraces eco-friendly themes. Visitors to the zone gain access to solar charging stations, complimentary BPA-free water bottles, and a chance for free organic t-shirts. Whole Foods will also be hosting a roaming food truck at the conference.

[Image: Dark Rye Teaser]

Discussion Questions: What do you think of Dark Rye as a marketing and engagement tool for Whole Foods? Should more retailers be introducing e-zines?

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11 Comments on "Whole Foods Launches Sustainable Living E-Zine"


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David Biernbaum
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Hmmm, we shall see. I have yet to observe even one retailer to date that has done an effective job being a publisher. However, Whole Foods does indeed have somewhat of a customer base that tends to be a more cult-like following, so if WFM does this right, it might just work.

Ian Percy
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Whole Foods is among the first to recognize and act on the amazing truth that people are longing to be…well, whole. At any point when we look around at the state of our existence, we need to see that ‘it’s all ONE thing.’ We cut and dice and categorize people to such a degree that we destroy the intended wholeness of who we are. Congratulations to Whole Foods for getting it.

Oh, and for goodness sakes, this ISN’T about launching more e-zines!

Warren Thayer
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Love the flavor and tone of this. My jury is out on whether the target audience will really latch onto it, but Whole Foods already has a strong social media following, so it just might work. Other retailers, for the most part, shouldn’t waste their money trying something like this. Whole Foods has built unique credibility in the “healthy” segment and has a loyal following. Most other retailers, if they launched something like this, would be met with a “yeah, right” from their shopper base.

Adrian Weidmann
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Whole Foods is once again showing why it is an innovative and leading retailer. Nothing connects a brand to its customers better than being able to tell a good story. Whole Foods is using the e-zine format to connect across different channels and mediums — text, video and audio — to its customers. Retailers should definitely be using these different channels to tell stories that connect with their customers. Home Depot and Lowe’s should be developing and producing this same format and highlighting their customers and their projects.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
9 years 10 months ago

Dark Rye captures the aspirational values of many, if not most, of Whole Foods shoppers and will reinforce the feeling of community with the retailer.

I like it; it is a perfect tool to reinforce the perception that shopping at Whole Foods brings you closer to the aspirational wish/dream that you, too, might quit the corporate world, open up an organic bakery or live on a lake somewhere and catch, grow or forage all you need to eat while you home brew beer, grow facial hair and read a book in the middle of a field of sunflowers.

Bravo Whole Foods. I can’t wait to read Dark Rye!

Matt Schmitt
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Retailers and manufacturers must increasingly focus on customer engagement, and further developing their brand into true media brands is a huge advantage in building affinity and loyalty. David Lauren (of Ralph Lauren) has been blazing a trail in digital media development. This trend will surely continue. Sure, there will be hits and misses, but these things will develop as an evolution.

Joan Treistman
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Whole Foods has equity in its approach to merchandising. If its e-zine maintains Whole Foods’ unique and engaging themes for shoppers, I expect it to be successful. I question the ability of other retailers to capture their shoppers with the same inviting embrace. Just take a look at their websites.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

Dark Rye might work but only because it is pitched at a highly partisan audience, and only until it makes its first major mistake. What, for example, is the water use profile of the happy couple growing food in Phoenix? Maybe it’s good or maybe it isn’t.

At any rate video is going to be increasingly important over time as more and more people move away from print and/or access information from new and alternative communication platforms. The issues really are: “Who should get in early?” “How deep a commitment should the average retailer make?” And, “Can you implement such a program consistently and cost-effectively?” Again, here’s another example of just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Maybe a natural for Whole Foods or an upscale retailer who could produce high quality cooking tutorial videos or a retailer in an ethnic market who produces bilingual videos to familiarize their customers with certain mass market products, but it clearly isn’t a strategy for everyone, at least right now.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
9 years 10 months ago

I like the concept. I suspect it wouldn’t translate directly to many of the large retailers that serve a broad consumer base. I tend to view tools like this as brand-enhancing not brand-defining and many retailers still have a way to go on brand-defining!

Martin Mehalchin
Guest
Martin Mehalchin
9 years 10 months ago

If Whole Foods pursues a “build it and they will come” strategy with Dark Rye (which appears to be what they are doing so far), it will probably fail to draw a large audience of consumers. They are much more likely to succeed if they focus on syndicating the content, thereby meeting their audience where they already are. Get Dark Rye on Flipboard; build a Tumblr page around it; drive traffic to a Vimeo or YouTube channel. If they pursue a syndication strategy then Dark Rye could become an important part of their brand and engagement strategy.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
9 years 10 months ago

“Should more retailers be introducing e-zines?”

Please, no. Then again, maybe this is a rhetorical question. Is there an organization or business that DOESN’T put out some kind of magazine, newsletter, or such? (Maybe your babysitter doesn’t, but she certainly has a Facebook page.)

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