How is it that the Trader Joe’s brand can exert such a fresh, strong pull compared to traditional grocery brands like Safeway? As I’ve noted before here and here, a signal strength of the Trader Joe’s brand is that it’s developed and delivered in the context of the customer. Trader Joe’s is a friendly place, small and intimate, on a human scale with lots of human touches, as close to “home” as retail gets.
In other words, Trader Joe’s is super because it isn’t a supermarket.
How Trader Joe’s implements its brand
You can find a richly detailed account of how Trader Joe’s implements its brand in “Inside the Secret World of Trader Joe’s” in CNN Money/Fortune. The article explains why Trader Joe’s thrives even though it lacks many “features” of the modern supermarket. Yes, those “features” may be illusions of conventional marketing practice. They’re often designed as platforms of advertising and promotion rather than an intimate stage of quality goods and produce.
Products that don’t shout from the shelves
If you’ve ever been to a Trader Joe’s you’ll notice that you aren’t assaulted by packaging pyrotechnics from the shelves, as is often the case in traditional supermarkets (which function as brand aggregators.) Packaging at Trader Joe’s is typically low key and informal, even whimsical. Most products are Trader Joe’s own brand. Since they don’t have to compete for attention they can be more laid back and conversational, witty or wry (try Trader Giotto’s meatballs), all of which produces a more engaging customer experience.
An invitation to discover new goods
At Trader Joe’s you feel like you’ve been invited in to discover new goods from artisans around the globe. The products engage you directly, on their own merits, scripted in humble magic marker. They represent Trader Joe’s. They’re not elements of the media campaigns that interrupt your TV viewing. In this regard the Trader Joe’s customer experience exists in sharp contrast to that of major supermarket chains, where the pitch is more profound than the product, and where customers are mostly confronted with shelves of advertising.
A brand goal: simplify choice, enhance trust
One shops at Trader Joe’s because one trusts Trader Joe’s for the unique selection, and the quality. The Trader Joe’s brand reigns supreme. It’s as if Trader Joe’s were a merchant-curator, hand picking everything from hummus to ham. You may have fewer choices, but that actually makes things better, not worse. Trader Joe’s has done the work for you. A trusted brand can greatly simplify the process of buying. And it tones down the advertising blare.
In brands, less is more
All this is no accident, of course. In brands, less is more. Own the context, and customers will follow. A brand (context) approach can make a decisive difference. For some recent research, check out “A Better Choosing Experience,” an enlightening article from strategy + business.
Photo credit: slgckgc — Flickr