The current problem is that advertising and growth can lead to an end of the “quirkiness” that is currently Trader Joe’s strongest attribute. Already, a bit of authenticity from the original stores has slipped away from expansion. A former employee, as shown in the case study, said “In the early days we never tried to be a neighborhood store.”1 There is no question that trying to incorporate more traditional advertising and thus, competing with large grocery retailers is the wrong direction for the company. More subtle advertising that builds upon the current strengths would be the best. The important thing to consider is if new ways to advertise would help achieve further profits and popularity without compromising the original culture of the store.
Solution 1 – Focus extra advertising on millennials (recommended course of action) Coulombe’s strategy was to create a place “for overeducated and underpaid people”.2 Beth Kowitt of Fortune said “for this crowd of urbanites and college kids, Trader Joe’s is nirvana.”3 Trader Joe’s claimed that 80% of its customers went to college and the company has described its target market as “intelligent, educated, inquisitive individuals…[who are] well-travelled…”4 These descriptions of Trader Joe’s target market are exactly what millennials are today.
Education, technology, and food, are important to millennials. Millennials are the most educated generation with 63% having a bachelor’s degree.5 Eight in ten millennials say it is “cool to be smart”.6 More than 70% of millennials worldwide said they would consider career opportunities abroad7 and they travel for pleasure more than any other age group.8 They’re moving to urban city centers and are less likely to own cars9 (which helps the Trader Joe’s parking lot complaints). When it comes to food, millennials are “thrill-seekers who crave heightened eating experiences such as intense flavors and extreme textures. The typical Gen Y eater swoons over unusual food forms, flavor profiles tweaked with unexpected or dramatic twists and of course, vivid global cuisines, especially when they blend fresh and spicy.”10 Millennials see eating as something connected with technology. “Their markedly social self-identities and need to be constantly entertained drive them to use networking technologies in food-centric ways.”
63% of millennials stay updated on brands through social networks. 43% have liked more than 20 brands on Facebook.12 It makes sense for Trader Joe’s to take advantage of their current target market seeming to describe current millennials and to build a lifelong relationship with them through advertising using social media. Nicole Spector of Direct Marketing News wrote “marketing experts concur that not having an authoritative voice in social media is a weakness.” and Sarah Mayer and Jennifer Ashley of Infiniti Marketing Solutions said “Their customers are talking about them in Twitter, on Facebook and beyond, so why not get involved in that conversation?”13 An unofficial Trader Joe’s Facebook page called Trader Joes Fan has 570,455 likes.14 With this following on an unofficial page, one can reasonably assume an official Trader Joe’s Facebook page would do as well, if not better.
Creating official pages on social media sites is inexpensive. To sign up for any of them it’s entirely free. The only cost would come in having people manage them. There’s no need to hire an outside PR firm. Current employees are described as “artsy, creative, college-educated young people who graduate without the hard skills that would allow them to get technical jobs.”15 These young college-educated people would fall under the millennial category and, as previously established, they know their way around social media and technology. By promoting from within, which is already done whenever possible16 it would be inexpensive to create a social media team from the pool of creative employees.