Trader Joe’s Brand Audit

Few grocery store brands capture the loyalty of consumers like Trader Joe’s. I admit I’m a recent convert, having never had the patience to wait on a line 100 people deep before — especially in Manhattan. My obsession with Trader Joe’s began with a grad school project on their disregard for social media. I was amazed that they were one of four major brands that shunned Facebook and Twitter. Reading they were an $8 billion company , my curiosity took hold. What the hell made them so damn special?!

I visited the Trader Joe’s on the Upper West Side and was mesmerized by colorful walls, friendly “crew members,” low prices and a rather fun grocery-shopping experience. Trader Joe’s crew members, dressed in Hawaiian-themed attire actually approach you and don’t run in the opposite direction when you ask where the chicken broth is located.  I didn’t even mind the line that wrapped the second floor, it went quickly. I also loved the fact that I walked out the door with four super-filled bags of groceries and spent under 100 bucks! That rarely happens in the city.

Since my first time, I’ve returned. Why? Because EVERY single product I’ve tried, I’ve liked. Every single one. From the breakfast bars to the coffee beans to the frozen pesto pizza to the Arrabbiata sauce for $5! I hate jarred sauce — but this stuff is good! Almost every item is $2.99. How do they do it? They only have 4,000 SKUs. The average grocery store has 150,000, which is just not cost-efficient.

I still stand firm in my belief that their social media ignorance leaves them open to a public relations disaster. Plus, they face the threat of posers and bloggers speaking on behalf of their brand, and not always favorably or accurately. But this time, I took a step back to audit the brand from all angles — Positioning, Essence, Hierarchy, Logo, Tagline, etc. High scores pretty much for all, except their tagline, “Your Neighborhood Grocery Store.” Ugh, that doesn’t say much of anything, might as well be a bodega. But it’s not. Check out my Trader Joe’s Brand Audit below:

Kudos to Trader Joe’s on their Brand Marketing, now let’s just get cranking on the social media, so you can Make My DigiDay!



#MakeBoringBrilliant: Subway Surprise

As a digital marketing consultant, I am regularly approached by publishers and advertisers with the same request:

“What is native advertising? How do we do branded content? How do you make a video go viral?”

I can never sum this up in a few sentences. But from now on, I will reply with these three words, “WATCH THIS VIDEO,” before I even begin to launch into best practices. And, please do (click on image below). It’s two minutes of your life and it’s worth every second.

#MakeBoringBrilliant Panhandler Prank

Why This Video Went VIRAL:

  • It’s relate-able to those who commute by subway
  • It provides a SURPRISE
  • It’s less than two and a half minutes
  • It’s FUNNY!

Why Advertisers Love NATIVE ADVERTISING:

  • Video Views (Over 100,000 as of this post and it was posted 5 days ago!) — it is hard to reach that with a purely branded video
  • Vitamin Water is integrated seamlessly into the content which is true to the College Humor brand
  • Vitamin Water-branded landing page on trusted College Humor web site provides authenticity


  • Video is also hosted on YouTube — reaching even more eyeballs and appearing in search results
  • The opening billboard contains both the College Humor and Vitamin Water logo, and the hashtag: #makeboringbrilliant which ties in organically with the content


  • There is a post-roll video ad — which is super-effective, because it’s yet another funny video ad, but this one is completely Vitamin Water
      • Viewers HATE pre-roll, akin to “banner blindness, where users are frantically searching for the X button to end it NOW!
      • BUT it you have a post-roll video ad played at the end when viewers are already engaged, they’re more likely to absorb and remember a brand’s advertising message

I’ve admired Vitamin Water’s #MakeBoringBrilliant campaign underground and I love the online extensions. Content Marketers take note — this is an excellent example of native advertising.

Vitamin Water, you have made my DigiDay!