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Why I think this Trader Joe's account is a marriage between corporation and individual — in perfect matrimoney
There’s an entire genre of social media accounts dedicated to promoting cult-favorite grocery stores. Trader Joe’s, Costco, and Target are some of people’s biggest obsessions online, so naturally they are also huge on Instagram. These accounts are run by people who simply love shopping there and claim to have no direct affiliation with the stores.
This week, I chatted with the woman behind @traderjoeslist, an Instagram account with a million followers that’s dedicated to discovering and trying items from Trader Joe’s.
Natasha Fischer, who’s 33 years old and lives in LA, started the account over 10 years ago. She spends hours each week shopping, sourcing, cooking, and photographing products from TJ’s, and posting them to her wildly popular Instagram.
Despite having a following that many influencers and wannabes would literally kill — OK, they’re not homicidal but definitely desperate — for, Natasha told me it’s all “just a hobby.” Her full-time job is being a location scout for another food brand: MOD Pizza, a fast-casual chain.
“I could do this as a full-time job, but I enjoy what I do,” she said.
Natasha and I DM’d for a bit about how she allocates time to running such a huge page, why she does it, and her relationship with the Trader Joe’s corporation. (She was using voice-to-text to respond, so please excuse any typos.)
During a typical week, Natasha will make at least one trip to a TJ’s in Santa Monica to “go up and down the [aisles], checking out if anything new has dropped.” Naturally, she is well known at her store.
Natasha said she has no working relationship with TJ’s. This makes sense, yet it still shocks me. Each of her posts garners thousands of likes, with comments from people tagging their friends and saying they’re rushing to the nearest location to purchase the featured item. Natasha said her posts average over 20 million impressions a week, which is undeniably amazing exposure and advertising for the company. Yet her account is totally unaffiliated with the brand. In fact, she said, the Trader Joe’s legal team actually contacted her once to ask that all her posts are marked as “not affiliated” with the company.
Natasha wrote she is inspired by Trader Joe’s and is “of course” open to working with the company.
“People want to online shop now, except for [at] Trader Joe’s. They’ll battle the parking lots to get inside. It’s fascinating,” she DM’d me.
I’m sure at this point this is starting to sound like advertising for Trader Joe’s. I’m already anticipating the usual BuzzFeed trolls commenting, “How much did Trader Joe’s pay you to post this?” But I can’t overstate how amazed I am about big Instagram pages like this and their operation within the ideal influencer business model.
Influencers and big social media accounts sustain their brands by selling goods. Most of the ones we’ve featured in this newsletter are by a single person or personality, and they have to strategically shill things that fit into their online persona. Lifestyle bloggers and people who posture to be “authentic” online then have to try to “authentically” post ads. Example: This week has been super busy for our family; we’re in the process of moving, and life has been hectic. While we’re not hustling and bustling, we brush our teeth with [startup toothbrush company]! Get yours today with my coupon code.
In Natasha’s case, and IG accounts like hers, the brand is the shill! Well, at least not a shill where she’s making a direct profit, but the entire business is pushing the products of another business. It’s not capitalism hidden in lifestyle photos — it’s capitalism as simply and boldly as we can see it. Plus, these corporations could not have dreamed of better marketing. I am no business major, but I’d guess that you cannot buy organic, native advertising like this.
According to Natasha, people are authentically connecting over her posts and TJ’s products, and that’s what she genuinely loves about her page.
“It’s … a feel-good page. Like, nothing to do with vanity,” she said. “The post[s] don’t make you judge yourself or feel bad. The worst is you may get a bit hungry.”
Finally, as one TJ’s groupie to another, I asked Natasha what her current favorite product is. It’s the Red Chili Pepper Brie.” I’m not going to link to it, because TJ’s is NOT sponsoring this newsletter.
Until next time — no, but seriously, look at all this free advertising. Sponsor meeeeeeee, TJ’s,