Your administrative and production folks can be well-meaning when they offer their suggestions, but they can unintentionally kill your brand. Because they don’t have street experience in the marketplace, they can make decisions that can undo years of brand building.
In their desire to understand the nature and success of the brand, non-sales staff want simple answers to the complex elements of brand success. They want everything boiled down to its simplest common denominator. But therein lies the problem. In their desire to make a good impression, they can overlook something critical to the brand’s success. Because they don’t work in sales, they are unaware of why the sales staff is successful. When your office and production staff really understand the demands of the market, then their input will be practical.
When was the last time your administrative and production people were out in the field riding with your sales people? From where they sit in their isolated and insulated offices, sales seem like a given. Your sales people talk to your customers every day. They know their needs and expectations. They are painfully aware of what the competition is doing and how the market works. To make changes in the product, the price, the packaging, or the marketing materials without your sales team’s experienced input is asking for trouble.
Here are 3 of the 7 Brand-Killing Mistakes your administrative and production people can make:
1. Cost Cutting. “Why don’t we just cut 50 cents a unit from our production costs? At our level of sales, why, we will save …” Cost-cutting measures should be done with efficiencies of scale, but not result in cheapening the product. The customer will notice any change in quality or packaging. Consider if it is worth the few bucks you’ll save if it means you will open the door for competition. Sales don’t stay the same when you reduce even the perception of value.
2. Simplification. “Why don’t we just have a uniform package? It would make my life so much easier.” Packaging options may make your products more appealing to a variety of decision makers all along the distribution chain. Ask your sales team the reasons why the market and distribution demands such variation.
3. Standardization. Production people may say, “We need to make our products look and feel closer to the standard in the industry. Why don’t we just change the product so it will look more like the fastest selling brand?” Maybe the reason for your brand’s growth is it offers something better than standard. Or, it may offer an alternative that buyers appreciate. The ‘safety in numbers’ philosophy has snuffed out many unique and sparky brands.
Notice the reoccurring use of the question, “Why don’t we just…?” It sounds so simple, so innocent and so obvious, but it is the signature of inexperience and the harbinger of brand killers. There may be some critical reasons why we don’t “just…”
Your administrative and production teams need to get out of their familiar surroundings, away from their agreeable colleagues, and into the field, to understand how the product really distinguishes itself and gets through the distribution channels. They need to learn for themselves what goes into making a sale and keeping customers satisfied.
Next time, we will examine 4 other brand killers – the common administrative and production views of Proliferation, Competition, Change, and Compensation.
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders