Whole Foods has loyal, upscale customers who might be nervous about its acquisition by Amazon, so the company sent people a reassuring letter by email. It’s one of the most vacuous communications I’ve ever read.
Now that Amazon is buying Whole Foods, will the retailer focus on online buyers? Will it expand its selection, including products that don’t live up to Whole Foods’ standards? Will it reach out beyond smug yuppies? Will you have to duck under swarms of drones to get in the front door? Naturally, customers are worried.
Whole Foods’ letter is 74% filler
Whole Foods’ email to customers, instead of being reassuring, is nearly free of meaning. In this analysis, I’ve put anything the small particles of actual content in bold. What’s in italic are meaningless weasel words. The rest is just fluff that carries no meaning. Translations below are from me.
Dear Valued Shopper,
Today marks the beginning of an exciting new chapter in Whole Foods Market’s history with the announcement that we’ve entered into an agreement to merge with Amazon.
Translation: Amazon bought us.
Amazon is an innovative company and we are excited about our partnership. We believe it presents an incredible opportunity to take Whole Foods Market’s mission and purpose to new levels and will create significant value for our stakeholders – including you, our most loyal customers.
Translation: [None; no content]
We want to assure you that Amazon shares Whole Foods Market’s deep commitment to quality and customer service. We will continue to operate our stores and deliver the highest quality, delicious natural and organic products that you’ve come to love and trust from Whole Foods Market.
Translation: We’ll sell the same stuff.
No artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sweeteners or hydrogenated fats will ever be in any of the food we sell. Meat will still come from animals raised with no-added growth hormones, ever. And all eggs in our dairy cases will continue to come from cage-free hens that aren’t given antibiotics. Those standards are core to Whole Foods Market and we will remain committed to them.
Translation: The rules for our foods won’t change.
Whether you’ve been a Whole Foodie for 30 days or 30 years, you have been an important part of making Whole Foods Market what it is today. We look forward to sharing the next chapter with you.
Your Whole Foods Market Team
Translation: [None; no content]
Why this letter reads like bullshit
Why does this letter seem as wispy and nutrition-free as an artisanal asparagus-infused helium smoothie? Let’s do the math.
Of the 228 words here, 59 contain meaning. That’s a pathetically low meaning ratio of 26%.
The meaningful words are in two sections. One is the statement that Amazon is buying — or strictly speaking, merging with — Whole Foods. You probably already knew that. The second is a list of rules that Whole Foods follows and will continue to follow about food, such as its commitment to no growth hormones. You probably already knew those, too. So there is nothing new here. The only actual information in these 228 words is that they’re not changing the rules. Of course, when the new guy takes over, he can change the rules if he wants, so even that commitment is worthless.
But there are plenty of meaningless weasel words, including “exciting,” “innovative,” “incredible,” “new levels,” “significant,” “value for shareholders,” “deep commitment,” “highest quality,” and “delicious.” (For the record, I shop at Whole Foods and I like their produce, but there’s a lot of non-delicious food there. You can keep the kale.) The weasel density (weasel words divided by total words) is 10%. This is absurdly high, exceeding even Marissa Mayer’s paean on selling Yahoo to Verizon, which was 6% weasel words. Anything exceeding 3% reads as bullshit. Whole Foods’ weasel density connotes triple-cream hand-turned fully-composted premium-volatility doo-doo. It stinks.
When you send a meaningless communication to people’s inboxes, you are not reassuring them, you are conducting a snow job. While there is a press release about the merger on the company’s investor site, there is nothing on its blog. In fact, if you search its website for “Amazon,” all you find is pieces about cacao powder and chocolate from the Amazonian rain forest in Ecuador.
Whole Foods clearly doesn’t know what to say to its customers about this acquisition. It shows.