TAI Student Sara Jane Stephens Interned with Trader Joe’s

This summer, TAI student Sara Jane Stephens worked as a Marketing and Merchandising Intern at the Trader Joe’s headquarters in Monrovia, California.

Stephens at the grand opening of the Trader Joe’s store at USC Village.

Her regular responsibilities in the marketing department included drafting articles for the Trader Joe’s Fearless Flyer, assisting with marketing promotions and communications on social media, the Trader Joe’s website, and radio advertisements. But before she could start any of that, she worked as a crew member at the store level for one week.

“[Working as a crew member] allowed me to see how the store is run and was a great opportunity for me to interact with customers and other crew members,” Stephens said. “Working at store level was essential to my success in the office because without truly observing and understanding the operation of a Trader Joe’s store or interacting with customers, I wouldn’t have truly understood the Trader Joe’s brand. Once in the office, I divided my time between drafting articles for the Fearless Flyer, assisting the Marketing department with marketing communications, and responding to customer emails with the Customer Relations team. Each day was completely different, which was exciting!”

Outside of her regular responsibilities, Stephens had the opportunity to participate in many different aspects of Trader Joe’s business, including a food and wine tasting, judging a photo competition on Instagram, and visiting suppliers.

Stephens and a co-worked on a supplier tour.

“There were so many fun and memorable moments,” Stephens said. “I was able to go on a tour of one of the Trader Joe’s snack suppliers in Southern California, which I would say was my favorite memory from the summer. The supplier that we toured makes tons of snacks for TJ’s and it was really fun to see the process of how everything is made and packaged before being sent off to all Trader Joe’s stores around the country. It was also fun to take an ‘off-campus’ field trip with the rest of the Marketing team. Another favorite memory of mine was participating in a food and wine tasting. There’s so much thought, time, and energy that goes into choosing and evaluating each and every product or bottle of wine that hits Trader Joe’s shelves, and I loved observing the process. After seeing the diligence in selecting food and wine for the stores, I can understand why everything at TJ’s is so delicious and well-priced!”

Being on the Strategic Brand Management track of TAI’s advertising program, Stephens has learned a lot about the importance of brand image and brand loyalty for a company’s success. And she was able to apply many of the principles learned in class during her internship.

“I would say that my internship at Trader Joe’s allowed me to see all of the work and collaboration that goes into portraying brand image and ensuring brand loyalty amongst consumers,” Stephens said. “The Trader Joe’s brand is their store, so the brand image of Trader Joe’s is not only demonstrated through their marketing communications such as the Fearless Flyer, social media, or radio advertisements, but also at store level through their friendly, knowledgeable crew members, delicious products, and the unique design and feel of each store, all of which lead to highly loyal Trader Joe’s customers. My internship at Trader Joe’s was a wonderful opportunity to observe the many facets of brand management that I have learned in my TAI advertising classes.”

Throughout the summer, Stephens learned all about the Trader Joe’s company culture, along with many other valuable lessons that she can apply to her future career in advertising and marketing.

Stephens and another Trader Joe’s intern, Taylor Camarena.

“I learned so much from my internship at TJ’s,” Stephens said. “I learned a lot about time management, brand management, and the importance of customer relations, but above all, I learned how good teamwork is essential to the success of a company. Throughout the summer, I was constantly in awe of how closely the marketing team worked with one another to not only ensure the success of their marketing communications, but also the success of one another. Furthermore, Trader Joe’s as a whole is a ‘no bureaucracy’ company and firmly believes that everyone in the company plays an important role in the brand’s success. This “no bureaucracy” mentality, which is a practiced value of all crew members including the CEO, makes Trader Joe’s the company that it is. I am really grateful to have observed and learned how strong teamwork ultimately leads to a strong brand at my internship this summer.”

One day, Stephens hopes to be a part of a marketing team for a big company like Trader Joe’s, and her internship helped to prepare her for that.

“I really like the idea of working for one brand and working to maintain and manage their brand through marketing communications and advertising promotions,” Stephens said. “I loved my internship at Trader Joe’s as much as I love their delicious food, and am very grateful to have had a summer working for such a wonderful company.”

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