Brand Blogger Q&A: Food Market Index (regarding Whole Foods)

Posted by Rob Walker on August 16, 2006
Posted Under: Blogging The Brand,Fandom,Q&A,The People's Marketing

This week’s third Q&A is, like yesterday’s, probably the beginning of a series: A series of interviews with brand-specific bloggers. In this case I imagine the series will be less open-ended (but I could be wrong). I’m starting with a relatively new brand blog, one that focuses on Whole Foods. It’s called Food Market Index, and so far it’s been quite good. The proprietor is Mr. Food Markets, Rob Denton, who kindly agreed to answer some questions.

When did you start the blog, and what goals did you have in mind?

May, 2006. My goals for the Food Market Index were to have fun and to try to amuse and inform readers. It was also a creative outlet for my ideas about organic foods, shopping, and Western civilization in general. I wanted to explore an area of personal experience that is also a familiar one for millions of people.

And were you perhaps inspired by any other brand blogs, or not so much?

Not at all. Oddly enough, I wasn’t all that aware of other brand blogs until after I started mine. I found that every niche has its fans — from Trader Joe’s to Toyotas. Some of the other brand blogs are quite inspiring in their scope and execution; others are a little snarky for my tastes. I feel like I walk a middle line down the shopping aisle — I like Whole Foods Markets, obviously, but I can also laugh a bit at the whole milieu, and at myself and fellow consumers too. []

Have your goals changed since then?

Yes. Originally I was just trying to come up with the most compelling material. Now I am trying to create interwoven threads on various topics while still staying tightly within the realm of Whole Foods Market. I like that as a challenge.

Why Whole Foods?

One key reason was that I have a passion for high quality food and health. I wanted something I could happily write about for more than a brief period. Also, Whole Foods was apparently an untapped topic, which appealed to me as an opportunity. I have other passions, such as spirituality, the Red Sox and Bob Dylan, and I could write forever about those subjects, but I would be competing with a zillion other bloggers. How many other people are regularly thinking in depth about Whole Foods?

You linked the other day to an interesting article in the Washington Post about the “Whole Foods effect.” This is just a pure opinion question, but that article made me wonder: Is it that Whole Foods has an effect on the neighborhoods it lands in, or is the company particularly astute at picking locations in neighborhoods that are moving in the “right direction”? Just curious if you have a take.

Certainly any corporation investing the type of resources it takes to put up a new Whole Foods Market does a lot of analysis about its prospects for success. But the “uncertainty principle” suggests that it’s impossible to measure what any area would be like without the Whole Foods that ended up there. I think the idea of a “Whole Foods Effect” contains a bit of hocus-pocus — in the blog I refer to it as “That Certain Something.”

The other thing about that story, it almost made Whole Foods seem like a quasi-civic institution, like having a Whole Foods around is practically as important as getting roads repaired or more police or the kinds of things property owners usually worry about. Do you find that odd? Or do you find that observation to be, simply, wildly off base?

I don’t think that’s wildly off because Whole Foods is involved in a lot of community areas beyond serving the needs of grocery shoppers. For example, in my neighborhood they support a wildflower society and meals for kids. So that goes into the aura that makes it hard to categorize them as just a merchant. There’s also this somewhat vague positive energy quotient that is apparently attractive to a lot of people.

I think you’re clear about this on your site, but for the record: You have no relationship, formal or otherwise, with Whole Foods, right? You weren’t recruited by someone to write this blog in any way?

Not at all — the blog is simply “one man’s walk down the grocery aisle.”

Have you gotten much (or any) feedback from the folks at Whole Foods about the site?

Nothing thus far!

Let us know if that changes — I bet it will eventually. And meanwhile: Thanks Mr. Food Markets!

LINKS: Food Market Index; Washington Post “Whole Foods Effect” article; Columbia Heights News (D.C. neighborhood group trying to attract a Whole Foods).

Further diversion may be found at MKTG Tumblr, and the Consumed Facebook page.

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