Being successful in the limited and controlled wine business makes us a target for aspiring entrepreneurs who want to start their own wine labels. Many new producers think that all it takes to be a success is a compelling label, a cute catch phrase, and a great bottle of wine. Good beginning, but success requires a level of respect for the marketplace with all its rules, quirks and dysfunctionalities. Success requires very hard work at store level. Success also requires respect for the competitive noise produced by a hundred labels also vying for attention, right next to yours.
One new brand, “Reckless Love,” with its eye-catching mustache logo and unusual name recently grabbed our attention. Regardless of what we think of the message, it’s eye-catching, amusing, and somewhat radical label is showing promise in a crowded wine market. In addition to this award-winning red blend, Rebel Coast Winery of Paso Robles California, also produces an upscale white blend. As colorful as its proprietors are with their cowboy hats, boots, mustaches, and controversial bumper stickers, they have achieved some very sophisticated branding:
- Point of Sale. You can do all the social media you want and all the advertising too, but where the customer, the product, the money, and the decision all come together is at the point of sale. That’s why those little signs under the bottles are so effective at telling you their flavor, food pairings, awards and endorsements. But they have to be put up by someone from the winery and they get torn down just as fast by the shoppers, store clerks, and the competition. One piece of point-of-sale material that always gets to the shelf and stays there is the label itself. That’s where Reckless Love really distinguishes itself. Its label is painted on the bottle with white, ¾ inch high stencil letters, evenly spaced over the entirety of their bottle face. The words are stacked and spell out “RECKLESS” above a silhouette of a mustache, and under that “LOVE.” The red wine bottle reads black, so the white painted lettering and mustache stands out like a road sign – causing the label to jump off the shelf, clearly distinguishing itself from the fray.
- Fun Theme. The back label is also painted white on “black” glass and carries a fun and romantic message that celebrates love at first sight and recalls the times when we may have let our hearts overrule our heads. At first you may think this is geared to folks in the 21-30 age bracket. But upon closer inspection, the $30 price on the red blend may be more affordable to a slightly older, more conservative consumer who may feel younger recalling the carefree days of impetuous youth. If the name and the theme aren’t enough to grab your attention, the glow in the dark bottle surely will!
- Customer Service. The Rebel Coast Winery gang is not sitting on their haunches expecting their theme and label to carry them – far from it. Their entire organization is focused on customer service with extensive store visits and merchandising. This conventional but effective approach assures that where Reckless Love is placed, it moves. The sober realization that their success comes down to personal relationships makes us think this wild brand has a good chance of success.
Picasso disrupted the art world with paintings that no one had ever seen before, but he did it in a conventional way by painting them on canvas in a rectangle designed to hang on a wall. As unconventional as they are, Rebel Coast is respectful of convention. We are falling for Reckless Love!
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