Regional Cult Brands
“Cult brands tend to be regional geographic brands that have been around a long time and the consumer has a fondness for. They are names people grew up with, and they know what those brands deliver to them.”
— Bill McClinton, SVP, licensing, Global Icons
There isn’t any one thing that makes people fall in love with a food store. Though an attraction to food in the first place helps.
For New Yorker Taryn Cooper, Trader Joe’s became a particularly special place because its selection of exotic foods, healthy choices and easy to prepare meals helped to nourish an adventuresome palate — and an aversion to cooking.
“I love food but I despise cooking,” Cooper admitted. “Being busy New Yorkers, it’s so easy to get something quick, cheap and efficient at Trader Joe’s that isn’t just your run-of-the-mill take-out kind of place. My husband, for example, barely knew how to boil water before he met me, and even that was suspect. Now he can whip up a quick Mandarin Orange Chicken package with a side of frozen microwaveable brown rice and broccoli on the side. All from Trader Joe’s.”
Cooper said the ease and selection at Trader Joe’s helped to expand her family’s appetite for items like Thai food and Indian cuisine, which encouraged them to shop there more frequently. Increasingly, she said, Trader Joe’s became a cheaper alternative to ethnic restaurants. Stories about her favorite finds at Trader Joe’s are published on a blog, which she calls “Trader Joe’s Abuse Problem.”
Founded: 1967, Pasadena, Calif.
No. of stores: 375
Sales: $20 billion (est.)
Distinguishing characteristics: Tight selections of discounted, private-label gourmet and specialty foods in a tropical-themed environment.
“Since it’s founding … Trader Joe’s has not only kept people coming back but has also created its own culture and a cadre of loyal shoppers who aren’t the least bit bashful about extolling the store’s virtues to perfect strangers.” — Len Lewis, writing in The Trader Joe’s Adventure
The blog — which Cooper said is augmented with frequent Twitter discussion with like-minded Trader Joe’s fanatics — is hardly unique, at least where Trader Joe’s is concerned. Few food retailers inspire the kind of devotion that Trader Joe’s can, with dozens of fan-written blogs that share recipes and finds (“What’s Good at Trader Joe’s,” “Cooking with Trader Joe’s,” “Tracking Trader Joe’s” and so on).
Then there are the fans petitioning to get an outlet of the Monrovia, Calif., retailer in their town. These petitions — solicited by the company itself on its web page but also running wild on social networking sites like Facebook — illustrate shoppers are making an emotional connection to Trader Joe’s that is deeper than a typical pairing of shopper and store.