Content Marketing All-Stars Q&A: Kara Chiles of Whole Foods Market

By NativeAI / June 18, 2016

Looking for some delicious examples of content marketing? Then make sure to check out the offerings from Whole Foods Market.

The healthy grocery chain has some of the best pieces we’ve seen from any brand, including an exceptional blog – Whole Story – and a best-in-class YouTube channel.

How is this scrumptious smorgasbord of text, images, and video created? Recently we sat down with Kara Chiles, Whole Food Market’s Editorial Director, to learn how the company approaches content development and to find out which digital marketing trends she is keeping a close eye on.

Check out the Q&A below:

Q: In your opinion, what is the difference between good content and bad content?

A: Good content catches you emotionally. It makes you think; it makes you hungry. Good content creates a strong reaction in the reader.


Q: We love the Whole Story blog. How do you approach programming it? What are the goals for it, and content more generally at Whole Foods?

A: Thank you, we are really proud of the blog. Primarily it serves as a place for us to elevate much of the content that we create. For example, we develop all of our recipes from scratch – most people don’t know that.

It’s also where we share what we are doing with our values and standards. We do our best to make it relatable: We try to show how the choices individuals make with food have an impact. We want to be part of the conversations people are having around food and provide the perspective of a trusted brand.

Q: How do you develop your recipes?

A: We have a dedicated team. Our recipe editor is a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef, and she works with a group of [recipe] developers to showcase some of our new products, as well as what’s trending out there in the broader world of food. For example, right now we’re doing a lot with African spices and flavors, so you’ll see things with harissa or Moroccan blends.

It’s a lot of work. Because we have stores in the UK and Canada we have to metricize the recipes and Anglicize them towards the local markets. Plus we have to provide nutritional information for each piece.

We’re creating about 24 new recipes per month, not including building collections or refreshing classics.


Q: We can see from the Whole Food Market YouTube channel that you’re creating a ton of video. Is that all done in-house? How has the experience been?

A: All of that is created in-house.

When I joined the organization I found that they were doing these beautiful, cinematic, pieces and were knocking it out of the park.

Over time we’ve gone from a one-size-fits-all video strategy to a more tailored approach. That doesn’t mean taking away from the quality of the video storytelling but rather thinking about the channel for which it is intended. So, we try to optimize for the channel in terms of how long a piece needs to be and how best to get the salient points across. We’ve started doing shorter, more viral pieces and playing around with stop-motion and animation.

We’re also still doing long-form, beautiful, storytelling around our expertise and our suppliers. One of the things I’m most proud of in this past year is that the team won an IACP award for a piece called For The Love Of Cheese, which showcases our global cheese buyer.

Q: How do you build an audience for your content? Do you use paid channels, social media, etc.?

A: We’re very fortunate in that we have a strong foundational audience on our YouTube channel and through our lifestyle content on our site. That said, we are seeing a lot of change in how we’re growing and reaching our audience.

We are really starting to look at paid and social to speak to audiences that are looking for meal solutions, food discovery, and help making grocery-shopping decisions.

We’ve thought hard about all of those different moments when our customers seek us out. Some audiences may be looking to share recipes as a way of connecting, others may want to explore the nutrients in a product, and others may just need to cook dinner for four people in thirty minutes. We want to get the right content in front of that person, on the right platform, at the right time.

There are so many avenues now that are available for use. Focus is a challenge. That’s something a lot of marketers are facing today. We are trying to be very thoughtful about not just what we create but also on how we distribute content.

Q: What are a few of your favorite pieces of Whole Foods’ content?

A: That’s hard, but I think I can narrow it down to a couple of good examples.

We are in the process of editing a series I’m excited about featuring Derek Sarno, who used to be our global executive chef and head of R&D. It’s about the Oregon street-food scene and it’s told from a vegan perspective. He’s exploring plant-based ingredients in a really interesting

That set of videos is a great complement to our Freshly Made series featuring Molly Siegler, which is very much recipe-based. It’s two different, but effective, approaches.

On the other end of the spectrum, we’ve started evolving the blog to include different voices. So a recent example is some great posts featuring Carli Lloyd of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team.

Q: Final question, are there any content marketing trends that you’re keeping a close eye on right now?

A: There’s no one trend, but something that comes to mind is virtual reality. We’re keeping a close eye on it. Virtual reality was also top-of-mind at South by Southwest [Festival] and people are clearly embracing it. We’re trying to figure out what it means for us and how to do some smart innovation in the space.

On a more day-to-day level, one trend or challenge that I think about is the number of channels available right now. It’s essential to figure out how much time to spend on each one, and where to expend your energies. For example, we recently launched our Snapchat channel. We spent some time thinking about it before plunging in. It’s a constant balance between wanting to embrace the new ways of storytelling and determining which platforms work best for your audience.

Written by NativeAI / June 18, 2016