Publix’ Marketing Success: Driven by Customer-Centric Culture

Publix is the first AMA Tampa Bay Hall of Fame Award winner for a good reason. Publix never ceases to impress in the realm of marketing, much like in other areas of the business. The grocery store chain has managed to gain market share over competitors in an increasingly competitive landscape. How does Publix do it? The answer comes down to one singular concept that guides the bulk of the company’s decisions: A customer-centric culture.

How is a strong customer-centric culture reflected in marketing and how does it drive marketing?

Publix Shares Values with Customers

Publix’ marketing does not highlight the excellence of the brand or its stores. In fact, Publix’ marketing is not focused on their brand at all. It is focused on their customers.

Customer-focused marketing begins with sharing customers’ values and beliefs, and designing marketing campaigns that prove this. The shared values that Publix emphasizes most are quality, togetherness with family and friends, and customer service. All marketing campaigns focus on one or all of these values.

Shared Values in Communications

Publix designs TV, online, and print communications to highlight the themes mentioned above. The brand’s holiday communications display the most well known examples of this. They offer recipes for delicious holiday meals, other useful ideas for holiday dinner hosts, and instructions for child-friendly crafts and decorations. Not only do these communications reveal that Publix values togetherness and quality, but the instructions for do-it-yourself crafts and meals extend Publix’ customer service beyond the store and into the home.

Genuine Emotional Connections with Customers

Publix’ customer-centricity is also evident in its ads, which highlights the shared value of togetherness. Publix forms a genuine connection with its customers because it approaches emotion differently. Publix’ ads allow emotion to develop organically.

It’s common for companies to design ads to evoke to a predetermined emotion in viewers. Often, the emotions are determined first, then the ads are designed to fit them. Publix is unique in that it designs its ads according to shared values, rather than a predetermined emotion.

These shared values (in this case, togetherness with family and friends) can evoke a variety of emotions organically, such as happiness, love, longing, excitement, nostalgia, or a different emotion. By allowing each customer to develop his/her own emotions in reaction to a shared value (rather than imposing a certain emotion on them), the brand forms a much deeper connection to its customers.

2015 Holiday Ads Pulled at the Heartstrings

One example of an ad in which Publix used togetherness to forge an emotional connection is the much-loved Publix Thanksgiving ad. Salt and pepper shakers that look like pilgrims come to life as they’re shared and passed around to multiple generations of a family, all smiling, seated at a large table together, and sharing a Thanksgiving feast.

A 2015 Christmas ad focused on togetherness too, as it features a teenage boy using a homemade invitation to invite a lonely elderly woman to have Christmas dinner with his family. These ads can evoke different emotions, depending on the viewer’s unique family experiences. What’s certain is that any viewer will feel touched and more connected to the brand as a result.

It all Starts in the Store

Regardless of how Publix emphasizes customer centricity in its marketing campaigns, it would lack authenticity if Publix were not equally adamant about observing these values in its stores. Those who have shopped at Publix can see its dedication to quality, customer service, and family-friendliness/togetherness.

Adherence to these values in the stores enables Publix’ marketing team to create campaigns that highlight what customers already know to be true. Brand reputation is high. Commitment to quality is already well known. The ability to focus on the brand’s core values simplifies marketing and branding…and lifts Publix far above its competitors.

About the Author: Chiara Tedone


Chiara is a Digital Content Creator for AMA Tampa Bay. She is Co-founder and Director of Winning the Fight, a non-profit organization specializing in neurodegenerative disease research. Chiara is also a freelance digital marketer for small businesses and is finishing up her MBA with a specialty in marketing from the University of South Florida. Prior to moving to Florida, Chiara lived in Washington, DC. She earned her BA in International Studies from American University’s School of International Services in 2007 and worked for Booz Allen Hamilton and the Department of Defense thereafter. Her hobbies include obstacle racing, running, swimming, kayaking, SCUBA diving, and opera/classical singing. She also loves country music and chocolate!

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Email: Chiara at [email protected]

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