Apples and Oranges: Differentiation

Apples and Oranges what is better? Well guess what, we won’t find that out today because instead we will be discussing the differences between two grocery store chains one which is a major chain and the other which is a much smaller chain store. The grocery store business is a fast growing industry with a new store opening everyday. The two stores that we will learn about and compare are Vons/Safeway and Sprouts, these two stores are our apples and oranges. The conversation for today will be about how do these two stores use social media to their advantage and if it what they are doing is working for them. But before we get into that let’s look at the history of these two stores and find out where exactly they are coming from.

Ingredients for Life:

Vons or also known as Safeway is grocery store chain that is located California and Nevada but Safeway’s are located all over the west coast as well as some other states in the midwest region. But how did they get their start and where are they today? Vons was first started up in Los Angels in 1906 and by 1928 they had expanded to 87 stores and by the 1970’s they had expanded even more with more than 159 new stores. Now in 2012 Vons has over 325 stores in California and Nevada. What makes Vons so impressive and how have they managed to be a leader in the ever growing grocery store industry? Let’s look back to 1948, during this time they did something that no other grocery store had done before, they started to sell self-service produce, meat and deli department. Since then they have been growing and changing and doing things to help keep them up to date and on top of what the consumer wants and needs. What are some of these things and do they have anything to do with social media? The answer to that is simple, yes. They have been doing this not only through the use of social media but by offering things in their store that consumer may find important. According to their website Vons has “introduced full service banks, one hour photo, professional pharmacies,dry cleaners and service centers which offer copying and faxing.” This is one way in which they are able to get customers back is by offering offering all of these different services. What else do they do, well let’s take a look. Just like most grocery stores they have a loyalty card that allows for consumer’s to save money on products that are on sale. They also have a program called “Just for U” this program allows for customers to save an additional 10-20% percent off sale prices, the Coupon Center which allows for consumers to find the coupons that they want and download them directly to their club card, personalized deals which are designed to save the consumer money on the products that they purchase most often, and your club specials this allows for you to find all the items that you purchase most frequently and find out if those products are on sales. This not just something that can be done in the store, but you can also download the “Just for U” app for your iPhone and Android.  They also have a Facebook account, that allows for consumers to engage in conversation with one another, they ask questions and also show special deals that are going on in the store. They have Twitter account in which like with Facebook they allow for consumers to engage with them, the ask questions, tell you about deals, and give advice about products that you may want to purchase. Then they have a blog but this blog is better than just listening to what the people work they have to say, but rather it includes posts by the people who really matter and that is YOU!

This is my local VONS store, located in the Hillcrest/Mission Hills area of San Diego, CA

The next store that I want to review is a small chain located only in a few states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. Before getting to how they use social media let’s take a little trip to the past, it all started back in the 1940’s with a single fruit stand near La Mesa, in San Diego, CA at this time the store was not called Sprouts, but rather it was called Boney’s, named after the man who started it all Henry Boney, hence the reason why some of the stores are called Henry’s. What has happened to Boney’s/Sprouts since that first fruit stand in 1943, well today they now have over 100 stores located in eight states. What makes this store so special that it belongs in this blog, well it is a different than you average run of the mill grocery store, it doesn’t carry as many products as most stores do and they don’t advertise on television. So how do they do it, how do they stay in touch with their customers, well first off they offer extremely low prices on the produce, for example 4lbs of watermelon or 4 ears of white corn for $1. But how do they connect to consumer via social media well this is how, the use the basics Facebook and Twitter but they also have a YouTube channel but unfortunately  they don’t advertise their YouTube channel so I had to personally search YouTube myself to find their channel. However their YouTube channel shows only four videos, but one video shows them sponsoring a Walk for Autism in Arizona.

There Facebook page is filled with questions that consumers can answer which helps them to engage and feel as part of this community. There Twitter Account is just filled with basic information, facts and recipes.

So the differences between the way in which Vons has chosen to use social media versus the way in which Sprouts uses it, is amazing. They both sell groceries but Sprouts is much smaller than Vons and so they don’t need to utilize social media as much as Vons. It is important to understand that every business is different therefore not every business is going to use the same social media outlets. Also it is important to understand that not all social media outlets need to be used in order to engage with the consumer. I believe that both Sprouts and Vons have done a good job as far as the amount social media outlets that they have used and how they have chosen to use them. Vons since they are bigger than Sprouts and sell more grocery items it is important for them to be able to compete with the larger grocery stores such as Kroger and Wal-Mart. Now Sprouts because they only sell a small selection of products and they sell healthy, organic, gluten free products as well as few other products, they didn’t need to do as much a Vons because they are competing more with Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.  Both of these stores are different but both stores are part of the ever growing grocery store industry and need to use social media in order to keep up and in touch with their customers.

* Sources pulled from:



Sandwiches: Social Media Strategies and Strengthening Brands

The almighty sandwich is the staple for lunches all around the world, from school lunches  to family picnics at the park, sandwiches are something everyone has eaten and enjoyed during their lifetime. A person has the two choices when it comes to having a sandwich and those are, purchasing one from a restaurant (Subway, Quiznos, Panera Bread) or you may just choose to go the the store purchase all of your favorite ingredients to satisfy your sandwich cravings. How may you ask, does this have to do with social media strategies and strengthening brands. Let’s consider our options, homemade sandwiches where we must go to our favorite store and purchase all the necessary ingredients or heading out to your favorite sandwich shop. Let’s take route #2 heading out to your favorite sandwich shop. The options for where a person may get there favorite sandwich can vary from person to person, but for now we will look at my personal all time favorite sandwich shop, the Gourmet Bagger in San Diego, CA. Having one of there sandwiches is almost like being in sandwich heaven, personally I could eat their sandwiches everyday, and I have been known to have them deliver to my work for lunch.  Now the big question is are they are they socially engaged, the question to that is NO. They do not have a Facebook page, no Twitter account they do nothing as far marketing it concerned, it is all strictly through word of mouth. For example I would never have known they existed if I had not seen other co-workers ordering food from them, and asking them about the food there.

Now let’s focus on chain sandwich shops, one of my favorite chain sandwich shops is called Which Wich, this chain was started in 2003 in Dallas Texas, and in 2005 they started to branch out and open more stores all around the country. Right now they have around 130 stores in operation around the country. This store is extremely engaging in my opinion, even if a person never visited there website but only go into their sandwich shop, they will notice that unlike subway were you stand in line and say you want a Turkey sub on white and then go down the line and express all the different topping on the sandwich. At Which Wich you pick up a paper bag and a red marker and on the bag you pick your sandwich, size, toppings, bread. You then just hand the bag to the cashier and they make your sandwich. This makes them standout from all the other chain sandwich shops like Subway and Quizno’s. Now how do they utilize social media? They do so in many different ways, to start they have a Facebook page, a Twitter account  as well as website that is very well designed. Their site is very easy to navigate, they have links such a community, in which they ask you to share your stories, one thing they say on there website that makes the consumer fully aware that are everyone online is, “But the real action is online, were we swap stories and spread good vibes with Which Wich fans like you”. Not once have I seen an advertisement on television for this company, so they way in which consumers find out about them is through word of mouth and searching the Internet. Another question is how does this business go about strengthening their brand? Well first off this company has fully engaged in the world of social media, they have pages on almost every social media site out there. I also believe that they rely heavily on word of mouth, and the Internet. If a consumer hears about this company they may choose to visit Which Wich or they may just “Google” sandwiches and find there website and browse the site and realize that this sandwich shop is worth a visit. I went to some of there other pages, such as there YouTube Channel where I was able to view videos about the store, things to do with one of their brown paper bags, and some of the charity work. One video in particular I thought was interesting was about them delivery Turkey sandwiches to families at a local children’s hospital in Dallas: 

How does this set them apart from other sandwich shops, well let’s compare them to subway. Subways are everywhere and they are a much better chain of sandwich shops and they have over 30,000 stores world wide, but just because they are bigger does not mean they are better than Which Wich, like they say bigger is not always better. They engage in a few ways, by asking what you want on your sandwich, but if you ask me it almost reminds me of standing in a school lunch line (not appealing), they also have a few different twitter accounts, a  Facebook page and a YouTube channel. But unlike Which Wich they advertise on television, they don’t need to really rely on word of mouth or the Internet as much. Everyone has heard of them, but not everyone has heard of Which Wich.  Also when comparing websites, well they do have a great website, it is sleek and well put together but is not all that original if you ask me. There website does have a section where one can engage with the company, “Contact Us” and on this tab they give you a few options, contact customer service, take our survey, subways FAQ’s. Not much going on, but if you look hard enough and don’t get to bored visiting there website a consumer can find all the good things that they do for the community. I think they still need to work a little harder when it comes to engaging with the consumer via social media though.

The Sandwich Battle: 

We have discussed the differences between three sandwich shops, the Gourmet Bagger wich does nothing as far as social media is concerned, Which Wich who is new to the game of sandwiches but have taken on social media as their main platform for strengthening their brand and finally Subway who uses social media but are still not as involved as they could be and they choose television as their main platform to strengthen their brand.  But what about the actual sandwiches themselves, let’s exclude the Gourmet Bagger because they are not socially involved, so the winner for me is Which Wich, not only do they use social media as their main source for brand strengthening, but they make some GREAT sandwiches too. I enjoy Subway, but they get a little old after a while, they serve the same types of sandwiches and they aren’t that exciting. Which Wich on the other hand has a variety of sandwiches, and they too are the same types of sandwiches you can get at Subway but then they also have a few sandwiches that are not available at Subway or any other sandwich shop for that matter, e.g. The Elvis Wich. Let’s not forget the children, as a mother of a 6 year old son who is very picky it is often times hard to find something that he will eat and that is “Kid Friendly”. Now Subway has a kids menu but the options are limited, Turkey or Ham. Now head to Which Wich and you will find, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Grilled Cheese, Cheese Pizzawich, as well as the old time staples Turkey, Ham and Roast Beef.

I find the winner hands down to be Which Wich, I will advocate for this company because of the wonderful sandwiches they serve, as well their YUMMY cookies, but also because I feel like when I visit them in the store or online that they really do care about what I think and what I want and that I am not just another customer. So Congratulations to Which Wich for winning the sandwich battle.

*Sources used in this blog post: