Get Your Hands Off My Taquitos

Dear Trader Joe’s,

I recently learned that you do basically zero advertising. I get it: Why waste money on print ads and circulars when you have a legion of rabid brand ambassadors talking up your plantain chips on the playground and telling people it is “totally worth the two-hour roundtrip drive” to go to the nearest Trader Joe’s? I’m very familiar with these brand ambassadors because I am one.

I’m maybe not as crazy about your store as this guy, but in an average month, I probably say, “I LOVE Trader Joe’s” five to 17 times. This is important for you to know, because what I have to say next might hurt a little:

While you may not need to advertise, your packaging could use some serious work. It’s very inconsistent. Some is great — your tissue box comes immediately to mind. You choose to give a voice to the tissue with clever messages on each side of the box.

I’m there when you need to pick up icky things. Kindly, Tissue.”

“I’m there when you run out of toilet paper. You’re welcome, Tissue.”

And so on.

This reinforces your image as “friendly” and “quirky,” and serves to increase sales by cleverly reminding the potential buyer that tissue is for more than blowing noses.

Great idea!

But not so great? The packaging on your Black Bean & Cheese Taquitos. Seriously, it makes me want to throw up. I’m sure they’re delicious, but they’ve sat in my freezer ever since I read the word “Handcrafted” on the package. All I can think of is, “Have those hands been washed?” And, “What else have they touched besides my taquitos?”

As a seasoned catalog writer, I can see what drew you to “handcrafted” — in most cases, it is an excellent “buy” word. It elevates the product by reminding the consumer that in this high-speed, impersonal world, there’s a real person — an artist, maybe — who cares about us and is committed to quality.

This approach works wonders if you’re selling a sweater, but not a frozen food product. And if you don’t know how to fix this little problem, give me a call. I’d be willing to work on trade.


A Rabid Fan

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3 replies
  1. Susan says:

    Amen, Anna! (And by the way, Trader Joe’s would be an awesome client, so good luck on that front.) I noticed that the sunflower chips had really neat package copy as well, adding to the fun, friendly experience of shopping at Trader Joe’s. Hadn’t thought about the taquitos, but you’re absolutely right! I’ll never think of the description “handcrafted” the same way again.

  2. betsy says:

    What a funny post…I’m a Trader Joe’s lover, too. Some of the pkging is brilliant, and some is weird. but you better eat that pkg of Taquitos soon or someone else will!

  3. Anna Goldsmith says:

    Susan — man, I’d LOVE to work for Trader Joe’s … but yeah, I think they are pretty close-vested with all their work and doubt they work with outsiders. I read that their execs never grant interviews and you can’t even find their headquarters — no logo or sign!

    And Besty — always nice to meet another Trader Joe’s fan. And yeah, some of their packaging is really great. Just checked out our site, but the way. Be Visible sounds really interesting. I love this line: “One of my greatest strengths is the ability to talk about the Internet in terms that the average person will understand.” Amen! There need to be more people like you.

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