How Penzeys Spices Created a Community of “Love Me” Buyers

Penzeys sells spices through the mail.

They are the largest independent spice retailer in the United States. But you’d never know it to look at their folksy, charming marketing.

And therein lies the genius of Bill Penzey’s marketing strategy. 

Every other spice seller sells…well, spices. Maybe their bland websites mention a little about flavor or pleasant aromas, but mostly they’re just pictures of spices. 

Bill Penzey, on the other hand, has turned spices into a cause. When he did that, the spices became the center… and symbol… of a community of loved and loving people. 

Cooking is a whole philosophy for Penzeys, almost a religion, a religion of goodness, of nurture, of caring, of love.

When you sign up for the Penzey’s newsletter, you get welcomed into this beautiful new world.

Once you get the emails, Penzeys elaborates on the theology behind the mantra: “Love to cook, cook to love.”

“What has set humanity in motion is cooking. In our nearly a million years gathered together around the fire, cooking shaped our bodies and transformed our minds. Cooking unlocked our potential and gave birth to religion, and to politics and government. The kindness of generations of cooks created our humanity…Cooks know the path that leads to happily ever after. A kind heart is all it takes to start the journey.”

Yes, a kind heart. That’s what Penzeys is really selling. 

“We at Penzeys are cooks. We are kind, loving people. Join our community and be loved. Join our community and be one of us, one of the loving people.”

How Does This Strategy Work?

Penzeys uses a textbook marketing strategy, a perfect example of the targeting of the Love Me Buyer. And they’re 100% sincere, which is why they’re so effective.

Here’s how you can use this strategy in your business: 

Each buyer type has a hidden, almost unconscious question that sellers must answer if they want to reach a certain buyer. For the Love Me Buyer that hidden question is: Do you appreciate me?

No Love Me buyer would ever ask that question out loud. But if that buyer is feeling insecure or doubtful, they may say:

  • You don’t understand my problem.
  • How do I know you are qualified?
  • I don’t believe you.

To persuade the Love Me Buyer, you have to answer these conscious objections. But it’s even more important that you address the hidden question: Do you appreciate me? 

And you need to answer both questions at both the logical and emotional levels of thought.

How to Create a Logical-Emotional Connection with Your Buyer

Penzeys is masterful at addressing the conscious and unconscious objections of the Love Me Buyer. They’ve got the logic and the emotions nailed. Here’s how they do it…logically and emotionally. 

We can boil down the spoken objections of the Love Me buyer to this: Who are YOU to tell me? 

Here’s how Penzey’s answers logically.

  • Free samples of different products with each purchase
  • Testimonials that are more than testimonials, but rather biographies of the wonderful and kind people who are part of the Penzeys family of cooks.
  • Free recipes, like the one below, just to prove how you can actually use the product.

Note the name of this product: Justice, next to a peace sign. Which is one small example of the boldest part of Penzeys’ marketing strategy: total identification with the efforts of anti-Trump “social justice warriors.” 

How Penzeys Increased Their Online Sales 60% with a Single “Offensive” Email

Soon after the 2016 election of Donald Trump, a Penzeys’ email accused every person who voted for Trump of supporting racism. According to marketing orthodoxy, this is poison, as it could alienate vast numbers of buyers. 

However, according to Bill Penzey himself, while the conservative backlash cost Penzeys 3% of its customer base, at the same time, their online sales increased SIXTY PERCENT.

Penzeys’ newsletter takes strong stands on all the major social and political issues of the day, including: racism, sexism, homophobia, climate change, etc. 

And they’re always stressing the compassion of cooks and their commitment to creating a more loving world. Here’s an example:

Penzeys has created a unique market niche that is a combination of cooks, social justice warriors, and Love Me Buyers. (Not all Love Me Buyers are SJW’s of course, but they could be.

Even if targeting this group Penseys alienates some consumers, the intense loyalty they get by combining love-oriented marketing with support for social causes more than makes up the loss. 

How does it work? Supporting social causes shows Love Me Buyers and SJWs that Penzeys can be trusted to support their own values. 

And it gives them credibility to answer the question:

Who Are You to Tell Me What to Do? 

Answer: “We are cooks and compassionate freedom fighters working for a better world just like you. Join us.”

Does it work? Absolutely! Look at some of the comments on this campaign.

Thank you for such great products and for loving your customers so much.”

“I love Penzeys even more now.”

“I loved Penzeys spices for many years, but I was so proud of your company when I got this email…One more reason to buy all my spices through you.”

Penzeys Warms Your Heart with Bill’s Charm and Mission

When you get to the Penzeys website, the spices are subtly associated with warm feelings surrounding love, both through messaging, and even subliminally, by the use of soft, rainbow colors throughout.

It’s a perfect combination of passion and genius that has made Bill Penzey the modern-day king of the spice trade. He has found a way to combine his knowledge and skill, spices, with his passion for social justice. 

Amazingly, he has been able to sell spices and cooking as a way for people to find community and meaning. In doing so, he has created a massively successful business using a marketing strategy that comes straight from his heart…

With messages like this one, right on the home page:

Or with gift packages like this:

Or this:

And when you sign up for the newsletter, you don’t just get one thank you,

         You get this:

A veritable profusion of gratitude. We appreciate you 3Xs, in purple handwriting. And with five exclamation marks!!!!!

If You’re Lookin’ for Love, Penzeys is In All the Right Places

I wouldn’t be surprised if one day, they said:

“Buy one jar of Penzeys exotic spices, and get unlimited quantities of free love now, and forever and ever.”

Okay, maybe you won’t find that exact offer on the webpage of Penzeys Spices. Not exactly. But almost. 

Here is what they do offer:




And of course, most of all, LOVE


1-Write from your heart.

2- If you have a cause that you care deeply about, share it in your marketing.

3- Address the Love Me Buyer’s skepticism with proof of your credibility and the usefulness of your product.

4- Show the Love Me Buyer how much you appreciate her. Don’t hold back. Appreciation is the best way to gain her attention and her loyalty.

5- Have the courage and creativity to share your passion without apologies. You will inspire the loyalty of like-minded people.

This post was written by William Metzger

About the author:

William Metzger – MA History, teacher, writer, DJ, baseball fanatic, marketing analyst. Currently, lead writer and Managing Editor of the Crawfish Boxes, a Vox Media, and Houston Astros fan blog.

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