Trader Joe’s conveniently locates close to the university and is quite popular among students and families. I first became interested in Trader Joe’s through word of mouth from people who lived in my apartment building about 4 years ago and decided to try it. Before then I have always known Trader Joe’s exist but don’t know much about it at all. Looking back now at Trader Joe’s I would say that they spend very little on marketing toward people at top of the funnel since even when I was aware of it I had little desire to actually check out the store. You won’t see Trader Joes on TV commercials, advertisements in public, nor magazine pages.
In terms of social media, while Trader Joe’s seems fairly inactive on Facebook (many fans but no activity) it seems to be fairly active on Twitter (46.9 K followers and 8,400 Tweets). Neither of which I am part of. Trader Joe’s does have e-newsletter introducing new products, recipes, as well as discount flyers available as free subscription from its website.
I am a very loyal Trader Joe’s customer. Whatever I cannot from the U-district store I go to QFC to get it. I don’t know if free sampling counts as a form of “community management activity” but if so, they do a very good job there aiming at existing customers who actually shop there. By strategically placing the sampling stand right next to the “New Products” section you immediately see the new products. My observation is that the majority of shoppers at Trader Joe’s picks up free food samples (cuz they are good!) as well as free coffee. By leveraging sampling activities to raise foot traffic of the new product shelf they can more easily get customers to try new products. This is probably less likely to work for someone who isn’t familiar or loyal to Trader Joe’s products since the new products often look…adventurous. My most recent new product was dried persimmons and it is a bizarre but delicious item.
I don’t think Trader Joe’s need to improve its PR or community management activities. Its customers are heterogeneous its products seem pretty reasonable for price sensitive as well as quality sensitive customers. They have a good amount of customer base in the U-district and I think they do a good job testing /pushing new products out.
An interesting side note, Trader Joe’s got free “PR” from several news agencies due to their legal action against “Pirate Joe’s” up in Vancouver, BC. (well, not free):