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!



Vloggers Stick it to Trader Joe’s!

When I was a kid in the 80s, I traveled to southern Mexico with my father, an explorer and amateur documentarian who hoisted a huge video camera on his shoulder, recording the native villagers. He plugged a few wires into a portable TV (also large at the time), instantly displaying the footage. It was the first time any of the locals had seen themselves on TV. They were mesmerized. Flash forward 25 years and we’ve all become movie producers in our own minds, thumbs poised to press record on our mobile phones, just waiting for “the moment”.

Today, millions of hours of video content are uploaded to the Internet every month. The more popular resources being YouTube and Vimeo. From job interviews to subway melees to drunken taxi rides — EVERYTHING is being recorded. Understandably, there are policies against using your mobile to record in the locker room or at restaurants, BUT this doesn’t mean the rules are being followed. Videophiles are posting, tweeting, blogging every interaction — especially the negative ones.

As I’ve mentioned previously, Trader Joe’s has zilch on the social media radar and branded video is another untouched outlet. Search for “Trader Joe’s” on YouTube or Vimeo, and you will find a wealth of user-generated content, which is great and FREE, but also very opinionated and not always accurate. And then there’s the negative:

The title, SCREW YOU TRADER JOE’S, and the lady’s Willy Wonka-esque glasses are enough to make someone press play. I wasn’t the only one, so did 16,000 other viewers. Basically the vlogger is trying to capture some footage in the store, which is against policy and they’re kind of rude about it, so she keeps recording on the downlow and has now become a TJ hater.

Having a store policy banning video is totally understandable. Just make sure, you have a Corporate PR or Communications person for them to contact and/or be granted future permission. That’s how you avoid negative publicity. Good customer service. Wasn’t this lesson learned with the musician who recorded, “United Breaks Guitars” after his horrific travel experience? BTW, his music video has over 12 million views, and it’s estimated United lost millions in the bad PR aftermath.

The catchy-tuned video below  is borderline love/hate, promoting Trader Joe’s products, but also working in a few digs in the song lyrics, like “It’s the stuff that they run out of all the time”, “12 Types of soy milk that all taste the same.” And you can see some Hawaiian-shirted worker lodging a dirty look when he spots the phone.  Most important thing to note: It has over 850,000 views!

“Scam at Trader Joe’s” has over 150,000 views blasting Trader Joe’s deceptive packaging. While I honestly think this guy has way TOO much time on his hands to examine and measure containers — he has a point:

My suggestion to Trader Joe’s is to first and foremost get control and to lead the video conversation. Video can be cheap to produce and viewers love organic, choppy, homemade clips. No professional recording/editing needed (which mirrors Trader Joe’s tone). Model it after the “Shopping Haul” videos which are so popular on YouTube (example below). This is where shoppers share what’s in their bag and why they bought it, how they’re going to cook it, etc. Post these weekly “Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer” videos to your soon to be created Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Pinterest accounts. One weekly video, four social media outlets. That is the quickest way to start to take control of your social media message.

Hey Trader Joe’s, you hear me? I’m headed to your 14th St. store to record my own rogue video — look out for me! I’ll have to make my own DigiDay!