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Growing bigger by acting smaller

The marketing principles that lead to the meteoric rise of Starbucks and Whole Foods will be revealed when former marketer John Moore visits Madison May 23.

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Getting people to buy delicious coffee beverages or great-tasting healthy foods doesn’t sound like such a tough sell.

Helping turn those sales into the building blocks for two powerhouse businesses — Starbucks and Whole Foods — is another thing entirely.

John Moore played an instrumental role in the marketing that transformed Starbucks into a global icon and served as the director of national marketing for grocery powerhouse Whole Foods Market. He understands the drive and discipline it takes to become a high-growth brand.

On May 23, Moore will be in Madison for the first-ever IB Presents: Grande Growth to break down the branding ideas and ideals that fueled Starbucks’ dramatic growth, and he’ll explain why small businesses need to look bigger and big businesses need to act small in order to achieve the “grande growth” that Starbucks has experienced.

Moore shared some of his own story and expert marketing insights with IB in advance of his visit.

“I can’t tell my professional story without first sharing one side to my personal story,” notes Moore. “I stutter. It’s on the mild side these days but it’s still there. When I was a 20-something, my stutter was strong. Despite having two college degrees in hand, I struggled to find an employer that would look past my stutter and hire me. My part-time job as a Starbucks barista turned into a full-on career when Starbucks hired me as a marketing specialist working in the Dallas regional office. From there, my professional and personal life changed and I haven’t looked back.”

Most of Moore’s eight-plus years at Starbucks were spent in the corporate marketing department in Seattle. As a marketing manager, he was responsible for developing and implementing in-store promotions. All the signage you see inside a Starbucks store promoting coffee drinks and such is part of a bigger strategic marketing initiative he helped create that’s designed to move the business forward.

After living in the Pacific Northwest, Moore longed to get back to Texas and be closer to family, so he took a job with Whole Foods as the company’s director of national marketing in Austin, Texas.

Toward the end of his time at Whole Foods Moore says he felt an urge to share with businesses everything he had learned from working at two world-class companies. “That led me to starting a consulting practice, writing my first business book — Tribal Knowledge: Business Wisdom Brewed from the Grounds of Starbucks Corporate Culture — and to speaking at business conferences. It’s been a fantastic ride that hasn’t stopped yet!”

According to Moore, business marketing hasn’t changed over the course of his career. “It’s still about designing marketing activities to deliver on the vision of the business, all while being smart, savvy, and authentic. It’s still about treating consumers as being everyday explorers who seek to be interesting and interested. It’s still about having a strong point of view that showcases the personality of a brand.”

What has definitely changed are the ways in which businesses can connect with people, notes Moore. The internet and social media now make it easier to directly connect with and market to people. Also, digital marketing democratizes marketing.

“Mom-and-pop shops can use the same digital marketing tools (Facebook, Instagram, Wordpress, etc.) that the big boys use. That’s a massive change that helps to level the marketing playing field.

“The skill set needed most by marketers today is empathy,” continues Moore. “Consumers are increasingly expecting businesses to care about them as people and to communicate with them in friendly and helpful ways. Empathy has always been needed in business but with today’s level of expected transparency from consumers, businesses driven by empathy will have a competitive advantage.”


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