Four years ago, my husband and I moved from a big city in northern California to a tiny town in central Arizona. I went through a tough adjustment period. I missed my family, friends, and my familiar routine. But more than anything, I missed Trader Joe’s.
But last month, everything changed. A big, shiny, colorful, brand-spanking-new Trader Joe’s opened!
My husband, who only goes to the grocery store under the threat of starvation, was completely baffled by my excitement at the prospect of a new place to buy food. As I tried to rationalize my unfettered glee, I started thinking about the “4 P’s of Marketing” and why, even after a four-year drought, I’m still loyal to Trader Joe’s.
First, I love Trader Joe’s products because they are simple. I can pronounce each ingredient in each item I buy, and the list of ingredients doesn’t take up half of each package. Don’t get me wrong; simple does not mean boring. Which brings me to the second reason I love Trader Joe’s products: variety. Whether I’m in the mood for something Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, French, or Mediterranean, I know I can find something to please my palate.
Best of all, if I try something and I don’t like it, I can take it back for a full refund. No questions asked—even if the container is empty. I rarely dislike anything because Trader Joe’s products are consistently good.
Marketing Takeaway: The root of great marketing is a great product. Which sounds obvious, maybe. But you have to nail product before anything else. Are you creating a product that your customers will love? That they’ll go out of their way to access? That they value?
I spend less money on grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s than I do at “regular” grocery stores, period. I’ve done the comparison-shopping. But even better than that, I know the pricing at Trader Joe’s is consistent. I don’t need coupons. I don’t need a club card. I don’t need to shop on the first Wednesday of each month to get my orange juice for $1.99. It’s always $1.99. And, because Trader Joe’s private labels the majority of what it sells, Trader Joe’s doesn’t have to push the cost of name brands to consumers. No middlemen. Ever.
Marketing Takeaway: Don’t rely on gimmicks and discounts to sell your product or service. Decide what it’s worth (do your research), and most importantly, be consistent.
Trader Joe’s doesn’t do print or TV ads. Trader Joe’s doesn’t use an advertising agency. Because they don’t have to. Spending money on advertising means they’d have to jack up prices, so they don’t. Occasionally, you’ll hear a radio ad, but those announcements are read by a company employee, not a voice-over actor. All the artwork in the stores is made in-store, by hand, by a team of artists. Yep, artists. Not computers. Each shelf tag, chalkboard, and mural was created with markers, paint, and chalk. What’s not to love about that?
Marketing Takeaway: Don’t spend money promoting your product if your product will suffer because of it. You can build buzz around your product without spending a fortune; it happens all the time. Take advantage of brand loyalists to tell your story for you. When in doubt remember: Authenticity rules.
There’s more to place than location. Yes, Trader Joe’s did the research and determined that a new store would thrive where I live, but the spot on the map is only one part of the equation. For the place to be the right place, there has to be the right atmosphere—one that’s inviting (flowers at the front door) and friendly (crew members in cute t-shirts). That’s what Trader Joe’s does so well. My excitement walking into the new store wasn’t just about buying food. It wasn’t even about price, product, or promotion. It was about the place. A place where I felt… at home.
Marketing Takeaway: Humans are emotional, and we want to connect. Are you creating an environment where your customers feel welcome? Websites are environments, too, and every click offers a chance to connect. Don’t squander a single opportunity to demonstrate that you value those connections.