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Trader Joe's Ranks Highest for "Brand Intimacy," New Study Says—But What is That?

The grocery chain has a loyal following for a reason.

From the wide selection of fun, festive products to the famously friendly crew members, it's hard not to get a warm and fuzzy feeling when stepping into Trader Joe's.

To further validate its glowing reputation, a recent study crowned the cult-favorite grocery chain as the top brand in the retail category when it comes to forming emotional connections with customers.

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As part of its 2022 Brand Intimacy Report, marketing agency MBLM used an artificial intelligence-driven analysis of 1.4 billion words used in consumer discussions about more than 600 brands. The agency, which defines brand intimacy as "the emotional science that measures the bonds we form with the brands we use and love," found that nearly 50% of the individuals who write about Trader Joe's "are in some form of intimacy with the brand." Among the words associated with the grocer on social media, "Delicious" was a highlighted as one of them.

Moreover, the grocer earned its highest score in Indulgence, a brand intimacy archetype focused on creating close relationships that revolve around "moments of pampering and gratification."

Trader Joe's interior
Corinna Haselmayer / Shutterstock

Beyond reigning supreme in the retail category, Trader Joe's ranked seventh among all of the brands in the report, with Disney, Tesla, and Apple leading the pack.

"[Trader Joe's] focus on unique offerings, affordable prices, friendly staff and creating its own unique ethos, is effectively connecting with customers, who see it as a preferred alternative to generic, anonymous grocery store brands," said Mario Natarelli, a managing partner at MBLM.

Costco took the second place title, getting its highest marks in Fulfillment, a brand archetype focused on "exceeding expectations, delivering superior service, quality and efficacy." Like Trader Joe's, the members-only warehouse club was found to be frequently associated with a food-focused keyword—"Tasty." Closing out the top five in the retail category were H&M, Amazon, and Whole Foods.

Reflecting on the study as a whole, MBLM notes that brand performance has increased by 19% since before the pandemic, with 9% more consumers forming emotional connections with brands since the pandemic started.

Brianna Ruback
Brianna is a staff writer at Eat This, Not That! She attended Ithaca College, where she graduated with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Communication Studies. Read more about Brianna