Want to build a brand like TJ's? Welcome...
Remember 'Pronto Mart' convenience stores? Of course you... don't.
Trader Joe's started as a failed convenience store experiment by the Rexall drug store chain in the 1960's. (I'm sure it was hardly the only bad drug experience of the decade, but I digress...) When Rexall employee Joe Coulombe was told to shut down the 'Pronto Mart' test stores, he had a different idea: he bought the assets from Rexall and created a handful of funky, counterculture-inspired Trader Joe's grocery stores in the Los Angeles area.
After Trader Joe's was purchased by the secrecy-obsessed German billionaire Theo Albrecht, it did something few personality-driven small businesses manage to do; it grew exponentially while maintaining its quirky, idiosyncratic vibe. That growth was driven by a following of customers so devoted that sometimes, it's hard to tell whether Trader Joe's is a brand, or a cult.
Today, Trader Joe's is an $8,000,000,000 company that spins off close to a million dollars a day for its owners. But how did Trader Joe's become one of America's most powerful brands without spending a cent on brand advertising?
One thing's for sure, Trader Joe's won't tell you. The company's not just privately held, it's positively paranoid; there's not even a sign on the head office in Monrovia, California. Forget about a company Facebook account or Twitter feed; the Director of Communications' only job is, it seems, to say "No comment" to enquiring journalists.
To get inside the brand, I took a $12 per hour job as a crew member. What I learned was that the brand was built from the ground up, on the strength of millions of one-to-one interactions between customers and crew members.
It's a whole new world out there. Trader Joe's was one of the first companies to realize that, any more, culture kicks strategy's ass. Can you and your company build a brand like Trader Joe's? You can, and this book will teach you how.