For the Press

Immediate release: Build a Brand Like Trader Joe's

Ad industry author writes from inside one of America’s most secretive companies
(Kansas City, June 2012) A year ago, Trader Joe’s opened its first store in Kansas City. There were over 5,000 people on the ‘Bring Trader Joe’s to the Kansas City Metro’ Facebook page. Since it was one of the company’s biggest stores, in a virgin market, it was an especially good place to study Trader Joe’s fan cult.
Mark Gardiner was one of the Crew Members hired before that Grand Opening. Trader Joe’s didn’t seem to notice that, on his application, he listed a 20-year career as an ad agency creative director -- including a stint as V-P, marketing at a 200-store retail chain in Canada. They never asked why he wanted a $12/hour job.

“I’d shopped at Trader Joe’s when I lived in California,” says Gardiner. “I knew it was a very successful business with devoted customers, but until I came face to face with them, I didn’t realize how fanatical they were about the brand.”
What struck Gardiner most, considering his background, was that the brand had been built virtually without advertising. “Imagine an $8 billion company that doesn’t have an ad agency, a PR firm, a Twitter account, or even a Facebook page,” says Gardiner. “It flew against everything I’d spent my ad career telling my clients. It was a story I had to tell, which is why I wrote, Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s’.”
The book explores the laid-back vibe instituted by Trader Joe’s founder Joe Coulombe back in the 1960s. The original ‘Joe’ created a strong cultural brand decades before the term ‘cultural branding’ had even been coined by the ad industry. It also, inevitably, opens the door a crack on this obsessively secretive company.
“I’m sure that, Dan Bane doesn’t welcome my book,” says Gardiner, “because Trader Joe’s doesn’t welcome publicity, period. But the fact that it never cooperates with journalists makes Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s interesting to people who aren’t ‘marketing’ types, but who are curious to read anything at all about the company and life in the store.”

Build a Brand Like Trader Joe’s is live on the Amazon Kindle store here, cost: $9.99.

Note: The last time Mark Gardiner dropped out of the ad business to write a book, he entered the world’s most famous and dangerous motorcycle race: The Isle of Man TT. His memoir of life as a motorcycle racer, Riding Man, is now in development as a feature film by Escape Artists/State Street Pictures.