Monday, September 24, 2012

I have a Facebook friend who called my attention to a web site called this morning. His post wasn't about Trader Joe's. It concerned the art supply store Michaels, and the link was to the first of many pages of bitter complaints by Michael's customers and employees (along with a few tepid defenses of the chain.)

Out of curiosity, I typed 'Trader Joe's' into the site's search field, and saw that there were pages and pages of complaints that cited Trader Joe's, too. What was the difference? As I started to read the comments, it was clear that the vast majority of the complaints were about other stores and brands, and cited Trader Joe's as an example of doing things right.

This is a typical example:

If I eat more than a couple of handfuls of Fritos or Lays potato chips, I get sick to my stomach. I contacted the company, but they didn't follow up with what I must assume they thought was a personal problem. I found a nice solution however. Trader Joe's sells a product called, "Organic Corn Chip dippers". They are very much like Fritos, don't make me sick and are cheaper. I highly recommend them for Frito lovers who are affected in a similar way or who are looking for a healthier, possibly organic snack food with a great taste and texture.

The comments on PissedConsumer are another example of the incredible strength of the Trader Joe's brand. As an insider, I continue to be fascinated by the disjunction between the quality, value (and 'values' in the larger sense) that Trader Joe's delivers in its products, and the strength of its brand/devotion of its fans. The fact that the majority of references to Trader Joe's on the PissedConsumer web site are comments like, "From now on I'll go to Trader Joe's" or "This would never happen at Trader Joe's" just underline the reasons other brands would be well advised to 'Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's.'

Trader Joe's doesn't try to be all things to all people, but they do strive to keep the customers they do have, happy. Companies, like Michaels, that don't mind alienating existing customers have obviously never done the math on customer acquisition. It costs a lot more get a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer satisfied. And with web sites like PissedConsumer now in the marcom mix, irritated customers are more corrosive than ever.

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