We all know it starts with the bread. There’s so much to love about it: the smell, the warmth, the crunch on the outside and softness of the middle. Bread should be easy to market, given the number of bread idioms that pervade the English language: bread and dough can both mean cash, “bread and butter” are the basics and “breaking bread” indicates a shared meal. For the last thirty plus years, Panera Bread has grown a successful company that, as of December 2011, includes 740 company-owned bakery-cafes.
A new Panera Bread ad, launched in February, uses a Rube Goldberg machine to demonstrate a chain reaction of values, demonstrating that values are at the core of the Panera brand. The basic premise of the “Live Consciously. Eat Deliciously.” campaign is that delicious, wholesome bread inspired the company to ask two questions: (1) “Could we make food that lives up to our bread?” and (2) “Could we come together as a community and help feed people in need?”
This ad, and the larger Panera Bread marketing campaign, is an excellent example of a company positioning itself based on messages that relay their values. In this one minute ad, Panera Bread shares the message that they make good food, source good food (their example is antibiotic-free chicken), care about the opinions of their farmers and chefs and choose to donate food to people who are hungry.
Of course, Panera Bread is not alone in this approach as many other companies integrate their values with their marketing strategy. Other high-profile companies that spotlight their values include: Patagonia, Warby Parker and Better World Books. Carol Cone, global practice chair, Business and Social Purpose, Edelman, suggests that in the United States, “Brands and corporations can” make “involvement in social issues easier and more aligned with the core needs [Americans] face today – jobs, hunger, education and healthcare.”
In a recent New York Times article, “Selling Products by Selling Shared Values,” the Panera Bread campaign is identified as “purpose” or “pro-social” marketing. The article goes on to talk about how consumers who are drawn to companies that share their values also tend to be well-informed (the kind of people who might use a corporate transparency app?). This values-based, loyal and well-informed consumer isn’t wooed just by the advertising; companies have to back up the message with real policies. Panera Bread, at least in terms of their approach to hunger and food insecurity, really does back up their message.
Besides their policy of giving away leftover baked goods at the end of the night, Panera Bread established Panera Cares community cafes. The community cafes are an innovative model of food business where each customer pays what they can to eat. At this time, Panera Cares operates five locations across the country. It has been almost three years since the first community cafe opened in Saint Louis, and high time that Panera broadcast their values to consumers.
Heidi Sistare is a freelance writer who just completed the documentary writing and multimedia storytelling program at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. She holds a BA in Social Work from Warren Wilson College and has experience in non-profit management, community development, and planning for small businesses. Visit her website at: www.heidisistare.com