Trader Joes Brand Case Study

I fucking love Trader Joes. I remember the first time I walked into one. It was a bit confusing, but the more time I spent inside the more I understood the hype.

I don’t get to visit Trader Joes that often. There’s only one in Houston and it’s about 20-30 minutes away from my house. But whenever I do go, it’s always the highlight of my day.

I was strolling the isles one day and it hit me – “Trader Joes is a well-executed brand ecosystem”.

Here’s what I mean:

A Distnct Brand Personality and Voice

I’ve always wondered who writes the little signs next to the food on the shelves in the store. It seems like no matter the store, no matter the city, they all use the same voice.

The tone is always upbeat, encouraging, and sometimes educational.

The brand’s personality is seen through every inch of the store. From its focus on clean beauty, mixing unexpected ingredients together, all the way down to how some of the employee’s talk and dress (many wear Hawaiian or floral shirts).

Something I recently noticed is that whenever you’re checking out, your cashier will find something in your basket to talk to you about.

They may complement something – “I love those chips! I eat them all the time!” or give you suggestions – “Those chips go really well with our avocado dip. It’s a great little snack”.

They encourage you to try different combinations of their products during your next visit.

Shopping Environment

Another thing that I love about Trader Joes is that there are things that can be found at your store, but not at every store.

It makes me quite jealous to see a friend from California talk about a new item they found, just for me to go to my local Trader Joes and not see it there.

Which makes sense – some things probably do better in Cali than they would in Texas (TJ understands its regional audience(s) and what they like).

Another thing that I noticed is that no matter the city, the physical stores themselves are not that big. The aisles are a bit tight and I think it’s done on purpose.

When you have a huge store like Target or Walmart, you lose that sense of closeness and community.

Trader Joes is a chain grocery store but it tries to position itself as a small business in your community. The smaller building size makes it feel more boutique and tight-knit.

(There is also a very sound argument made that Trader Joes chooses to place its stores in middle to upper-class neighborhoods where there is more than enough access to high-quality ingredients and produce. It’s very obvious the types of clientele that Trader Joes attracts and that explains why there aren’t many in the inner cities).

Trader Joes Salmon Poke Ball Receipe
From the Trader Joes Official Website

95% of the products are their own brand

This confused the shit out of me when I first went, but what a way to build customer loyalty and exclusivity!

It’s difficult to get Trader Joes foods outside of going to the store (I do see some products on Amazon but I never buy) and I’m 100% sure that’s done for a reason. Exclusivity is a sure-fire way to get people to come back time and time again.

And the time and execution it takes to make all of your own products from dairy to meats to pre-made meals to desserts is no small feat. Which is another way of giving you that boutique and exclusive feel.

Overall, Trader Joes executes the elements of it’s branding very well through every touchpoint. From the environment to the food down to the paper bags they use to pack up your groceries.

TJ is a lesson in understanding your audience, what they value, what makes them feel special, and capitalizing on all of that with exclusive products and a unique shopping experience.

Trader Joes Brand Case Study


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I'm Ashleigh Keith, a creative problem solver for woman led brands that prefer to cultivate relationships instead of the perfect Instagram photo. I use my background in Psychology to develop human-centered brands for women that want to do more than just run a business - they want to make a greater impact on the world around them.

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