We literally ran into a new brand yesterday. It was stacked on the floor of our local supermarket in the middle of the aisle. We had to swerve our shopping cart just to avoid a collision. But, in the process we had to notice the new brand! We found out later from the clerk that it was on the shelf for months but it didn’t sell fast enough to justify keeping it in the store. So it was being closed out and discontinued. And the store knew that one way to get rid of it fast was to make people “trip” over it. In other words, people would not have to know about it or be looking for it. They would just unavoidably see it. We did! It worked!
We wondered why that brand builder didn’t get his new brand introduced with a floor stack display in the first place. Just because you got into the store is no guarantee of success. In fact, it’s downright dangerous, because now the store is measuring your brand performance. It starts with the day that your shipment lands in the store and ends with the day it leaves the checkout scanner. That time interval is the speed of the “turn.” In other words, it’s how fast your brand is moving in that particular store.
Sure, we know it’s difficult to get on the floor in a new store without history and recognition. That’s why we advise brand builders to start slow and build a history of rapid brand growth – even if it’s in a small area, or just a few stores. As we say, in the beginning, don’t sell it further away than you can drive in a day. Why? Because the future of your brand’s performance is at stake:
You’re Lost on the Shelf. As soon as you gain shelf space, start to show up at that store at least twice a week. Look for any reasons why your product is not selling. You are racing against the clock! Your brand must attain the volume to justify a display stack. Just the amount of attention you will have to put into merchandising in this early stage will prevent you from expanding. But you don’t really want to try to expand until you crush it in the first few stores you gain access to. Somehow, through instore samplings, demos, or neighborhood events, get the customers of that store to buy your brand – quickly. The brand we ran into that was being discontinued obviously did not!
Your Reputation Precedes You. Then, after you have demonstrated rapid sales off the shelf, you are in a better position to suggest a floor display. But here too, you must be vigilant and visit the store frequently. Even though the merchandising overhead can run you into the negative, think of it as an investment in your reputation. You want that particular store to see your brand as a “hot mover!” Be sure to notice the volume sold from the display over the selling period. That will be the most important brand performance report your next retailer wants to see. It’s what that retailer will use to determine whether you go in to that next store at all, or get that coveted floor space. The more floor space, the better the chances your brand will perform.
The Rich Get Richer. With enough successful floor displays behind you, new opportunities will begin to snow ball. Now retailers will give you larger displays which will create more brand awareness, more sales, and more rapid brand growth. You will begin to be seen as a display brand. Unless you have the money to pay large sums for slotting allowances (where legal), you must earn your way up to this status.
These are just a few reasons why it is so important to be a big hit in a small place right off and parlay upon your incremental successes. Happy selling!
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