Trader Joe’s Can Teach You a Thing or Two About Branding

From spunky wall paintings to packages that echo Victorian era sentiments, from 1980s music to “crew members” wearing floral t-shirts, Trader Joe’s is a genius and iconic brand that we can all learn from.

One day as I was frolicking through the aisles of Trader Joes, I suddenly became mindful of my environment, as well as the various items that I had thrown into my cart. For about a minute, I carefully scanned the store, my lot of groceries, and came to realize that Trader Joe’s brand is absolutely genius. And if you happen to be a TJ’s fan, whether you’re conscious of the fact or not, Trader Joe’s image has already penetrated your brain, influencing every single one of your in-store consumer decisions and purchases. Clearly, TJ’s can teach us a thing or two about branding, and I’ll explain just why the company’s strategy is so darn brilliant.


1. The face that needs no name


From spunky wall paintings to packages that echo Victorian era sentiments, from designs more contemporary in style to cartoonish graphics, TJ’s literally radiates with an abundance of art forms. Moreover, each artistic element plays an instrumental role in defining Trade Joe’s as a brand.


Allow me to explain: let’s assume that you’ve set foot in a TJ’s before. Now, pretend that I’ve placed the package shown in the image below in front of you, omitting the words “Trader Joe’s” from it. Would you be able to recognize the company behind the product from the brand?


Let’s take a look at another example. Could you identify the coffee items below as TJ’s products, even if they weren’t labeled as such? I’ll safely place my bets and say that yes, your brain would indeed have the ability to make that TJ’s distinction.



But why? Branding experts suggest numerous key variables when it comes to yielding success. However, according to moi, exclusivity and consistency are amongst the most significant. TJ’s unique emphasis on graphics and each store’s overall artistic vibe are factors that are exclusive to the company’s image. Because of this, Trader Joe’s is effectively a company with a face that needs no name–the brand is the name! In addition to exclusivity, by consistently launching new products that are equivalent in artsy nature, TJ’s successfully upholds and validates its brand. For this reason, a TJ’s shopper doesn’t even need to see the words “Trader Joe’s” on any of its products to know exactly where they came from.


2. Trader Jacques’, Trader José’s, Trader Giotto’s, and beyond!


If you ever take the time to observe your TJ’s haul in detail, you’ll notice that the traditional “Trader Joe’s” stamp on each label changes depending on the type of food you purchase. For instance, all French products (éclairs or the fancy Fleur De Del Caramels above), are demarcated by “Trader Jacques”. Whereas products of hispanic origin are labeled “Trader José’s”like the bean dip below, or “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian products, etc.


So, why do I bring this up? Because this seemingly insignificant detail is actually quite important for TJ’s, as it distinguishes certain categories (Italian food, Hispanic food, etc.) within the company’s brand itself, thusstrengthening it’s brand overall. Bottom line: micro effects → macro effects.


3. The Trader Joe’s Crew


Trader Joe’s employees are also an integral component of the company’s brand. Everything from the floral t-shirt uniforms to being called “crew members” rather than employees, and the ringing of bells when assistance is needed at the cash register––the humans that power the daily operations at Trader Joe’s are the living, breathing conduits of the company’s brand.


4. That 1980s throwback music

Already within walking distance of TJ’s, you’re greeted with fun 1980s tunes that make you want to rock-out and enjoy yourself. Many people associate branding with something physical, but music is no less important. There’s a very clear strategy at play here. Whenever you hear 1980s music at a strip mall, you know that there’s a TJ’s around the corner–it’s all in the brand! Moreover, when you enter a store in a good mood (thanks to those groovy throwback songs), it’s likely that you’ll buy more things than if you weren’t (common sense).


To Conclude…


Trader Joe’s brand is so strong that the company has built an entire culture around it. Whether you’re reading this insight in order to gain a better perspective on branding (or simply out of pure curiosity), no matter who you are, TJ’s can undoubtedly teach us a thing or two about what a genius brand resembles.

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