Creating a Culture and Building a Brand Grows Customers and Sales


For business owners, branding is one of the best ways to stand apart from the competition. But creating a brand isn’t always easy. Speaking at The NATSO Show, Doug Rauch, an expert on branding and the former chief executive officer of the national grocery chain Trader Joe’s, told attendees that building a brand starts with culture.

“Culture is that one thing that nobody can duplicate. Culture is the core values you have to have. Culture is a company’s destiny,” Rauch said. “Why do you exist? Who would miss you if you disappeared? Hopefully you can answer that with a clear mind and, more importantly, each of your employees has a clear sense of the purpose of your business.”

For those looking to get started building a culture, Rauch suggests they look at their customer focus. He said, “Do you really believe that serving the customer is really important?” 

To emphasize the importance of customers within Trader Joe’s, the company started evaluating employees on their customer interaction during their performance reviews. In some locations, the company knocked down walls and did away with managers’ offices. “We said 70 percent of the time, managers should be out on the floor and modeling how to interact with the customers,” Rauch said.

Rauch told attendees that one thing most people don’t realize is that Trader Joe’s started as a 7-11 knock off. “How did this company that started as a literal knock off of 7-11 end up on the cover of Fortune magazine as the hottest retailer in America? It is a company that created a culture of sustained innovation. Not just once or twice, but continuous improvement,” he said.

That improvement included blind taste tests when determining which products to carry and creating unique products customers couldn’t find anywhere else. “Trader Joe’s realized delivering a true customer experience is the difference between why someone shops at Grocer A versus Grocer B,” Rauch said. “What Trader Joe’s has done to a large degree is create shopping as a sense of adventure and bring a sense of fun to it.”

Rauch told attendees that the No. 1 reason businesses fail is because they stop monitoring the environment. “If you’re not trying to build a top brand, then your ability to thrive is probably seriously in danger,” Rauch said. “One of the leading indicators of failure is success. Every great company is a healthy paranoid. You wake up every morning a little worried that somebody else is going to do it a little better. “

Photo Credit: Chuck Fazio/NATSO

Mindy Long's photo

Mindy Long

Before launching a full-time freelance career, Long edited NATSO's Stop Watch magazine. Prior to that Long worked as a staff reporter for Transport Topics, a weekly trade newspaper, covering freight transportation, fuel and environmental issues. In addition to covering the transportation sector, Long has written, reported and edited for a variety of media outlets. She was the Washington correspondent for WCAX-TV (CBS) in Burlington, Vt., a criminal court reporter in Chicago and a freelance copy editor for Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine in Washington D.C. Long hold a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism in Evanston, Ill., and a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Westminster College in Salt Lake City.More
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