Hey, what’s up, guys? This is Brand Breakdown, and I’m your host, Matt Young. Brand Breakdown is a show where we take a company, breakdown its brand perception, and paint a picture of how people came to perceive it that way. If you want us to review your brand, drop a comment or email me at


Today’s company is Trader Joe’s, the quirky grocery store where employees wear Hawaiian shirts. If you’ve ever wondered, “How does Trader Joe’s have such a huge presence?” That’s exactly what we’ll be talking about today.

Trader Joe’s follows the same mantras as other atmosphere-based shopping experiences, like how Apple stores feel sleek & futuristic. Trader Joe’s is the place you go if you’re looking for quality products at an affordable rate in a high-quality environment consisting of clean shelves and excellent customer service.

It was originally a convenience store when it was founded in California during the 1950s and pivoted to become a grocery store in the 1960s. Its founder, Joe Coulomb, started an internal company culture that beat out the competition. Employees are encouraged to wear Hawaiian shirts, are consistently paid more than employees of competing grocers, and identify as traders on the culinary seas. They also came up with gimmicks like hiding plastic lobsters throughout their stores. Due to factors like these, there is a low turnover rate for employees.

Because employees feel such a kinship with the company they work for, customers feel good about going to Trader Joe’s where the staff is happy and helpful. They built their customer loyalty starting with treating their employees right. This built an amazing reputation in the market.


With the company being over 70 years old it would seem that the company would, at some point, deal with controversy or public outrage. However, Trader Joe’s has experienced little to none. A main sticking point for some customers would have to be the packaging that Trader Joe’s uses which requires a large amount of plastic. Trader Joe’s has addressed this by moving to containers that are less difficult to recycle, but the process is slow and will require an overhaul of how Trader Joe’s operates.

Mission Statement: 

“The mission of Trader Joe’s is to give our customers the best food and beverage values that they can find anywhere and to provide them with the information required to make informed buying decisions.

We provide these with a dedication to the highest quality of customer satisfaction delivered with a sense of warmth, friendliness, fun, individual pride, and company spirit.” 

Trader Joe’s is not competing on price or salesmanship. They’re competing on providing the best quality of product and service. The market response would confirm this, and one major example of this is how living near a Trader Joe’s will actually increase the value of your home.

More Obstacles

Going back to scandals, there was one instance in Portland, Oregon, where a neighborhood experiencing gentrification had a Trader Joe’s built and quickly taken down as the surrounding neighborhood rejected it as another form of gentrification, fearing it would cause increases in rent.

Target Audience

This also makes sense since, according to founder Joe Coulombe, Trader Joe’s target market is educated yet underpaid people. This is also the reason why they began selling cheap wine – because Joe read about how higher education leads to higher levels of drinking. He matched his audience to the right product. This holds true today.

Would you shop at Trader Joe’s? Let me know why in the comments.

If you like our content about branding, want us to review your brand, or want to work with us, please let us know in the comments or by emailing me at This has been Brand Breakdown with your host, Matt Young. Peace.