4 Key Ingredients Of Branded Content: Trader Joe's Flawless Execution Case Study


Table Of Contents


Marketing Ingredients, Baked to Perfection

Predictable advertising and in-your-face marketing are a thing of the past. Now more than ever, marketers are challenged with the task of creating engaging, unique content that promotes brand awareness, which has to be subtle enough that the consumer doesn't even realize it's happening. Seems difficult or even impossible, right? 

Enter: Trader Joe's. It's not your average grocery store, and its marketing is idolized and studied by other brands hoping to have similar success.  In this blog, Hollywood Branded takes a look at the four (4) key ingredients of branded content, and showcases Trader Joe's seemingly flawless execution of it.

Trader Joes Flawless Execution of Branded Content

The Recipe of Branded Content 

Trader Joe's has nailed the formula for stellar branded content and marketing professionals everywhere are taking note. Branded content isn't your traditional form of advertising - it serves to build brand awareness by associating it with content that has shared values with the brand.  

When executed properly, branded content works incredibly. It should grab the consumers attention, and then provoke an emotional response that leaves the individual feeling more connected to the brand. I'll show some examples of how Trader Joe's marketing is doing just that, but first we need to cover the main ingredients of the successful branded content recipe:

1. Knowing Your Audience

In order to resonate with your customers through a marketing campaign, you need to know who you're targeting. It's critical to first understand the specifics of your audience, then you can build your content around their behaviors and preferences. 

2. Creates an Emotional Connection

Content is more effective if it creates an emotional connection with the customer. Consumers are more likely to absorb and share content that they have an emotional response to. Telling a story is one great way for a brand to tug on consumer's emotions. 

Another way is through shared values. When you meet a person with similar values, you like them more and feel an instant connection. It's no different when it comes to brands. Great branded content creates positive brand awareness, by showcasing the brands values in a relatable way that doesn't feel like they are selling you something. 

3. Attention Grabbing & Entertaining

In a world full of marketing, consumers are quick to dismiss your run-of-the-mill advertisements. Marketers have to think out-of-the-box to capture the precious attention of consumers, and once they have ithat attention, they want to keep it, which is why it has to be entertaining too. Along with emotional connection, entertaining content is more likely to drive real engagement, such as sharing or commenting.

4. Unique Marketing Channels

Consumers know an advertisement when they see one. They want relevant content and they want it to be delivered in interesting and unique formats. It's important for branded content to be appeal incorporate visual stimulation and interactivity to enhance the user experience. 

Those are some of my favorite ingredients for great branded content. Let's review some of Trader Joe's branded content, and see how they included the above ingredients in their marketing recipe.

Not Your Average Newsletter - The Fearless Flyer 


It seems crazy writing about how a grocery story nailed branded content in their newsletter. Actually, it feels odd calling the Fearless Flyer a newsletter, because it's so much more than that. One thing that it definitely isn't - junk mail. Oh no, people look forward to reading it. 

Trader Joe's has the perfect blend of fun, quirky, engaging branded content in this exceptional piece of marketing. The Fearless Flyer keeps the reader engaged by using jokes, puns, and plays on words. It makes use of storytelling and appeals to your emotions.

If you haven't read the Fearless Flyer before, you're probably wondering how in the world a newsletter can tug on consumers emotions. Allow me to provide an example from their Fall Fearless Flyer.

Excerpt from October Fearless Flyer:


We just love this time of year. Sure, the weather’s great, but we’re talking about all the absolutely delicious stuff that comes back to Trader Joe’s, after a hiatus that seems like – let’s be real – forever.

Among our most eagerly awaited returnees? Last year’s standout, Trader Joe’s Butternut Squash Alfredo Sauce. We can’t really imagine a more perfect pasta sauce for this particular season; it just ticks all the boxes. Creamy? Check. Cheesy? Check. Savory? Check? Packed with seasonal squash? Double check. (And really, whether you consider squash a vegetable or a fruit, this is a win.) Every small-batch-produced container is 40% light cream, 40% butternut & pumpkin purée, and a blend of gruyère & Parmesan, with shallots and nutmeg. It’s just so very good.

Pair it with pasta, bake it with chicken or as a béchamel replacement in lasagna, thin it with chicken or veggie stock and eat it like soup (yum!), or warm it and use it as a dipping sauce for your favorite crusty bread. Once again, we’ll only have it for a short time, so try it while you can. We’re selling each 11.6 ounce jar for $4.99, a phenomenal value that’s about four dollars less than you’ll pay for comparable sauces elsewhere. You’ll find it in our refrigerated case.

Even if you're not looking to purchase their Butternut Squash Alfredo Sauce, you've probably never seen Alfredo sauce described like that before. Or if you're like me, you kinda want to be friends with the guy who wrote this. (Consumer connection? Check!) 

If someone doesn't find that witty, engaging, funny, or real - I'm not sure I trust them. The above description includes every ingredient of a perfect marketing recipe. It's unique, relatable, on brand, and engaging enough that I read the entire description. (You can find me at the refrigerated case this Sunday at my local TJ's.) 

Watch the Video

Trader Joe's Instagram, A Branded Content Machine

Most people don't follow their grocery store on Instagram, but Trader Joe's broke the mold on that stereotype with a following closing in on 2 million strong. Their feed is a display of photos with delicious recipes made using Trader Joe brand ingredients, videos from their YouTube channel, and clips from their podcast.

The content on their Instagram stays on brand - highlighting their great prices, overall quirkiness and personal touch. It's an impeccable curation of branded content that deserves to be recognized. Here are two examples, check out their page for even more!

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This recipe post is eye catching, mouth watering, and the branded jar in the background creates brand awareness. The caption tells a story and I even laughed at their final hashtag. It's both#Relatable and #Funny.

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Another example is this video of a recipe using their Pumpkin Bread & Muffin Mix. Its both engaging and unique. Branded content bonus points for repurposing this from another channel- YouTube!

The Most Recent Addition - A YouTube Channel

Earlier this year, Trader Joes quietly launched their YouTube channel. Their videos range from recipes, highlighting their unique products, and even includes their podcast clips. Their mascot - The Fearless Flyer - is often featured as a guest! 

The following is small (almost 13,000 subscribers) in comparison to their Instagram, but you better believe the content is on brand.  It's another textbook example of Trader Joe's ability to effortlessly integrate their overall aesthetic in a way that entertains and engages their audience.

Here's some of my favorite videos on the channel:

Ever wonder how their Scandanavian Swimmer's are made? Me neither, and I bet the majority of this video's 30,000 viewers never wondered either. But now I know, thanks to being this surprising and unique (branded) content. 

I never thought I'd be entertained by a video about celery, but Trader Joe's did it again! They really just took one of the most frowned upon vegetables and made a video that I watched in its entirety.

Trader Joe's marketing team could write the textbook (or cookbook) for branded content. And knowing their style, it would be both a page-turner and a recipe for success. Kudos to you, Trader Joe's, for incredible marketing and a one-of-a-kind shopper experience. 

What's Next? 

Branded is part of our company name, and we have blogs on blogs that talk about branded content. Check out some of these blogs to learn more!

Another pillar of great marketing is Product Placement. We made a downloadable guide for our readers to learn all about great product placement- check it out!  

Product Placement & Co-Promotions 101 Guide