Allison Bertram
Nov 27, 2018 · 4 min read

A closer look at Trader Joe’s

Many brands dominate almost every social media platform there is. There’s no shame in that; it covers all their bases and connects with countless personas. Fewer brands choose the road less traveled when it comes to social media, but a seemingly simple question is left unanswered: why?

Trader Joe’s is the perfect example of a brand practicing social media minimalism. To understand their habits, one must understand their brand. The iconic grocery store began its journey in 1958 with a re-brand in 1967, complete with cedar planked walls and Hawaiian shirts for the employees. They package products under their brand name to save cash and preserve value. As a result, Trader Joe’s prides itself on no sales, no gimmicks, no rewards clubs, no cards to swipe policies.

Trader Joe’s pride in simplicity shines through in their social media presence — and lack thereof. Their highest amount of activity is on Instagram and Pinterest. Other than YouTube, these are the most visual social media platforms. They keep up with foodie platforms (and set a trend for big-time competitors like Meijer to follow) by posting aesthetically pleasing photos of their products, along with product stories and recipes.

YouTube reveals an interesting case for Trader Joe’s lack of official presence on the platform. Instead of running a corporate account in an attempt to woo YouTubers, the users have done all the work for them. There are thousands of videos related to Trader Joe’s — anything from taste tests, grocery hauls, and even diet-specific do’s and don’ts for TJ shoppers.

This presents an answer to the chicken-before-the-egg argument. Instead of growing their presence online and gaining popularity in the 21st century, Trader Joe’s earned our love before we mixed social media and brand awareness. Their sassy, smart branding and reasonable prices drew people in for decades before social media even existed, mind you. I have fond (early 2000’s) childhood memories of my mom and me sneaking away between my brother’s hockey tournament games whenever we were near a Trader Joe’s store. To this day, we both curse our town for never securing a location to call our own.

Trader Joe’s absence from other major platforms is a smart decision. Marketing employees have more time devoted to high-quality content on their website and social media platforms they do interact with, and the company doesn’t spend as much money on employees and social media ads. But, are they missing out?

Major brands populate the two biggest social platforms: Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is the all-in-one, jack of all trades ruler of the social media kingdom. It offers a video, photo, text, and interactive platform for businesses and customers. Even the biggest brands like Amazon use Facebook as a marketing tool when they already reach a huge audience. Twitter forces a little creativity and a lot of humor out of brands. Wendy’s was among the first brands to capitalize on Twitter users’ savage humor and has their social media managers keep up with the latest jokes — even if it means tweeting about a grape having surgery.

Twitter has a complete absence of TJ corporate and a blue checkmark while companies like Wendy’s and MoonPie take advantage of the sassy, humorous audience. Rather than host a corporate presence on Facebook, regional locations have their own pages and manage their own content, providing very little activity and information when they do post. Even if they didn’t want to spend the money on ads, they could carve out some time devoted to reaching their Facebook audience.

It’s easy to explain why many brands take advantage of as many social media platforms as they can: to reach all audiences. It’s a little harder to know for sure why Trader Joe’s wouldn’t do the same. They likely profit enough to have social media ad investment be a personal preference rather than a burden. If it’s not the money, is it pride? Is it old-school tactics? Is it just a plain personal choice of a privately-owned company? For how savvy Trader Joe’s has always been with brand choices and consumer appeal, they must know something we don’t. And they surely don’t mind missing out.

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