4 Powerful Truths About Branding You Can Learn From Publix

By RJ Walters

The green circle with the approachable sans serif “P” represents a retail giant that makes its home in our backyard. It also, over time, has come to represent quality products, good customer service—and of course, Pub subs.

Publix operates more than 1,300 grocery stores in seven states, but it humbly began as a single store in Winter Haven opened by George Jenkins.

The success of the Publix brand is enviable, not just because it generated more than a reported $48 billion in sales in 2021, but because it has been carefully crafted and honed, so customers know what it represents and are drawn to the experience it embodies.

The success of the Publix brand can teach other businesses of all sizes several valuable lessons about branding. Here are some key takeaways from the brand whose slogan “Where Shopping is a Pleasure” has been sticking in people’s brains since 1954.

Consistency is Key

Publix has built trust in its customers through brand experience across all touchpoints, including in-store interactions, advertising and its online presence. It’s about the entire experience they create for their customers. From the moment you step foot into a Publix store, you’re greeted with a clean and inviting atmosphere. The well-organized shelves, the friendly and knowledgeable staff, and the emphasis on fresh and high-quality products all contribute to their brand image. Other businesses can learn from this by ensuring that their brand messaging, values, and visual identity align consistently across all locations, departments and digital channels. Style guides that include specific brand personas for all platforms is a great way for staff to align their creative efforts to your brand’s voice.

Strategic Adaptation and Innovation

While Publix has a strong tradition and values, they have also embraced innovation and adapted to changing customer needs and preferences. They have been willing to embrace online orders, stepped into (and now appear to be stepping out of) specialty Greenwise Market stores and continue to embrace the self-checkout trend.  

They also have transitioned from a heavy dose of newspaper and radio ads to primarily digital marketing that includes heartwarming, cinematically produced commercials for TV and social. They know how to speak directly to their target audience and create that emotional connection that keeps customers loyal. This teaches other businesses the importance of being open to change and continuously evolving to stay relevant in the market. See what the customer wants and figure out how you can provide them that, with excellence and in a manner that is cost effective.

Employee Empowerment and Engagement

An often overlooked facet of a brand’s reputation is the experience and happiness of the employees who work for the company. It makes sense that the people who spend their lives devoted to the company will usually talk about it the most, building public perception, both good and bad. Publix has been named to Fortune’s list of “100 Best Companies to Work For” for 25 years in a row, and it’s no secret that part of that sustained culture is due to the fact Publix is employee owned and its stock options make working for the company potentially more lucrative than competitors.

When your employees have ownership—whether literal or figurative—in your company, they will be more likely to take ownership of your brand and feel like your business is an extension of who they are. Listen to your employees, create opportunities for advancement and state your cultural foundations and build upon them.

Give Back to Your Community

One way brands win in 2023 is by being part of something larger than their bottom line or their product selection. Publix is a perennial giver and community partner, ensuring its presence in towns and cities means better quality of life for residents. Through Publix Super Market Charities, the retailer helps alleviate hunger, reduce homelessness, encourage youth and supports education. By giving back to the community and encouraging employees to help their neighbors through business-backed initiatives you allow people to see the heart and humanity behind your logo, products and services.