Street smart brand builders are light on their feet, constantly looking for current events, market changes, and consumer mood shifts they can take advantage of. When you are building your brand, pop-up opportunities abound. But can you take advantage of them before that window of opportunity is closed?
The best approach to getting your brand out there is not necessarily always following a well thought-out marketing plan. Sometimes, it’s the sheer chaos and happenstance that can be turned to your advantage.
For instance, when Barefoot Wines were new to the LA metro, we were intimidated by the gigantic market dominated by tough competition. And, we were on an extremely limited budget. How were we going to penetrate this panoply of claims, prices, and logos? Suddenly we won a gold medal in the LA County Fair! But marketing required weeks to design and print advertising materials, and the fair would be a distant memory by that time.
Then our LA sales manager took it upon himself to make small shelf ad cards announcing the win and showing the medal. He produced them at a copy shop the day the Fair announced the winners, and had them up all over the metro by 5 PM the very next day. He even used the makeshift card to get buyers to bring in more product and display our brand prominently.
What would have happened if we waited for a perfect piece from the marketing people? You guessed it, we would have been too late to take advantage of this pop-up opportunity!
Seizing a fleeting opportunity might mean breaking a few ‘rules’ and granting some local autonomy, but it pays off big time. “What’s new?” is what the market wants to hear today. By waiting until next week to respond to what’s new today, you lose their interest. Next week there will be something else that’s ‘new.’ This is the problem with measured marketing campaigns where long-term strategies plow along like a battleship and can’t maneuver in real time like the agile torpedo boat. You may have a “perfect” national plan only to be upstaged by an upstart who is light on their feet and working the local market.
We recommend that marketing and over-all top management give local salespeople a certain amount of leeway to develop materials on the spot. They may not be perfect but they can be timely and, in the scheme of things, timely and local trumps calculated and national – especially in a local market.
Another one of our salespeople was able to get a last minute sponsorship with a local non-profit in a small town in New England. The group was going to feature our donated products at their fundraiser. The day she was able to get confirmation for the event, she created signs on her own that said “As featured at the Wild Rivers Fundraiser this Saturday February 19th” – just one week away! This stroke of genius got her several displays of our product since the retailers in that recreational town all wanted to identify with the group that, if successful, would save the sports fishing industry so important to the town.
So sure, build your comprehensive marketing plans to build your brand and polish them to perfection. Take the time necessary to make sure they are “perfect” before you release them. Just remember all sales are local sales. Leave some room for your people on the ground in the local markets to take advantage of pop-up opportunities with make shift materials that can capitalize on today’s news on-the-fly!
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