Trader Joe's Smoked Sardines

8 February 2016

Click Bait: Trader Joe’s Fishy Valentine’s Marketing

by Freddy Tran Nager, Founder of Atomic Tango + Trader Joe’s Junkie…

If we are what we eat, then I’m 99% Trader Joe’s. (In case you don’t know, Trader Joe’s is a beloved chain of low-priced gourmet food stores that’s more cult than grocery. Like Scientology with kale.)

I’m lucky to live walking distance to a Trader Joe’s, so I can get my fix of their branded dark chocolate and hazelnut bars, peanut butter with flax and chia, frozen pineapple tidbits, handmade tortillas, and Kentucky bourbon almost anytime I want. (I’m still waiting for a 24/7 store.)

So, naturally, I subscribe to Trader Joe’s email, which enlightens me about their newest items with colorful stories filled with cheesy puns. Yes, long before storytelling became the trend du jour among us marketers, Trader Joe’s spun tales about every item on their shelves, like this one…

For some, discovering the joy of pears feels like finally entering the Pearly Gates. That’s because, despite this sophisticated-cousin-of-the-apple’s heavenly profile — firm, perfumy, juicy, delicious — the average eater finds the road to pearadise a long and difficult one. What causes such impearment? It’s probably as simple as the fact that pears don’t fit our handy fruit expectations. Pearplexing questions arise, such as: “How do I know when it’s ready to enjoy?” Or, “What foods can I pear it with?”…

Now, every so often, these masterful munchy marketers leave me a bit baffled…

Take the email I just received from Trader Joe’s with the playful subject line, “Consider Us Cupid…” I opened it to find this compelling bit of copy:

As Valentine’s approaches, consider us your Cupid. Drawing from our quiver of comestibles, Joe’s bow is sending nine darts to target the heart — seven you eat, two you won’t. These Valentines will stir up flirtations, curate courtships, kindle the flames… maybe make a little mischief.>>>

Those triple arrows in red certainly entice clickthroughs (and we SEO practitioners know that clicks from interested parties help boost a site’s search engine performance). But what really piqued my curiosity was the second image from the left in the top row. Among the usual Valentine’s Day suspects of roses, chocolate, and wine was… a can of sardines?

Trader Joe's Cupid

Of course, nothing says steamy passion like smoked fish. “Go ahead, honey, open it now and see if it fits!”

I was hooked. Forget the triple red arrows – nothing triggers clicks like weirdness.

So I clicked and landed on the designated Consider Us Cupid web page, and sure enough, there glistened a giant picture of Trader Joe’s Lightly Smoked Sardines In Olive Oil with the oh-so-romantic line, “Good Source of Calcium.” Below it was this pitch:

It might be coincidence that the family name for sardines — Clupeidae — closely resembles the name of the god of desire — Cupid. But we don’t think so. Trader Joe’s Lightly Smoked Sardines in Olive Oil make one of the sexiest tinned Valentines ever (move over, oysters). These pilchards come from a small fishing village on the southern coast of Portugal. They are cozily packed in olive oil that delivers an alluring, delicately smoky flavor. You know what they say, where there are Lightly Smoked Sardines, there is a fiery Valentine. Well, they should. Each glamorously pink 4.25 ounce (three ounce drained weight) tin is a smokin’ $1.69.

Tip of the Arrow: Nestle them on top of Pita Bite Crackers spread with a bit of Boursin® or just hand your lover a fork.”

Fade away “Fifty Shades Of Grey” — prose doesn’t get any more alluring and delicately smoky than that. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to do some nestling on a Pita Bite Cracker.

Now, whether my wife will share my sentiments is a whole ‘nother story. I think I’ll also pick up that pack of chocolate cupcakes to play it safe.

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Freddy is the Founder & Creative Strategist of Atomic Tango. He also teaches graduate-level marketing communication courses at the University of Southern California (go Trojans!), shoots pool somewhat adequately, and herds cats. Freddy received his BA from Harvard and his MBA from USC.

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