Every new year we see new brands vying for attention, trying to get traction in the marketplace. Some make it and some don’t. We love the success stories of the ones that do because they inspire us with their often unlikely solutions to the barriers of market access.
Brands are only as good as the products they represent and a seemingly good idea can face apparently insurmountable problems when it’s product is so different from what’s out there, that it’s producer has to develop an entire delivery system just to get it to the customer.
Such was the case with the Popsicle. We recently had the pleasure of being the guest of the granddaughter of the inventor at her beautiful Hacienda in Mazatlan Mexico. Her grandfather, Frank Epperson picked up a stick in a glass of fruit soda water that had been left outside overnight in freezing weather and pulled out the first popsicle. He was only 11 at the time!
He loved the idea and wanted to make them and sell them. Seemed simple enough, just freeze juice with sticks in it and voila! Popsicle! Not so fast, modern refrigeration hadn’t been invented yet. Ice boxes, as they were called, require real blocks of ice. Undaunted in his desire to bring Popsicles to market, he had to invent the freon refrigeration system that revolutionized frozen foods.
Even then retailers wouldn’t buy them, so he came up with the idea of giving them away with writing on the popsicle sticks that said good for one free popsicle at your favorite store. Again, seemed like a clever way of forcing the stores to carry his brand, but wait. Edible ink hadn’t been invented yet. So Frank invented that as well and got distribution and built the Popsicle brand.
But what if he was stopped by the lack of freon refrigeration or edible ink? And who would have guessed such game changing inventions were just part of a plan to bring Popsicles to market?
Someone said, “I just came to clean the swamp and suddenly I was up to my waist in alligators!” Slaying the alligators is never expected with a new brand but entirely necessary. We like Frank’s story because it exemplifies what’s often unexpected but required to bring a brand to market. At Barefoot we often had to invent solutions to problems we had no idea we would be facing. Those solutions solved many other problems beside just getting our brand to market.
As we enter the new year, we want to acknowledge all the “by-the-way” inventions, sea changes and breakthroughs that will certainly happen this year just to get new brands to market, and we want to celebrate and encourage those brand builders who will refuse to take no for an answer and invent their way to success – just like Frank Epperson and his Popsicle !
Happy New Year everybody! It’s a BRAND New Year at that!
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