In the past, producers were so worried about losing customers that they avoided anything they felt was controversial, even if it was clear that one side was ultimately right based on the merits of their stand. Rather than risking sales, some companies just stood on the sidelines and watched history unfold, and then, when the cause became mainstream, they quickly sided with and marketed to the winning party.
It takes conscience, vision, and courage to take a public stand on hot issues. Many controversial causes represent marginalized groups. They start out as underfunded grass roots organizations that seek to reform a system. They depend on educating others and increasing public support. When you and your company take a stand with these marginalized groups, you give them a social reason to become loyal customers, and when they become mainstream, their supporters (your customers) increase.
What can you and your company do for these marginalized groups? Your distribution system already provides an efficient conduit to get your product to the consumer. When you stand for something beyond your product and its value, you are able to broadcast your message through your distribution channels. This way you can cover huge areas and influence many thousands.
Education is the key to resolving many imbalances in the world. How does that message get out? If you choose Worthy Cause Marketing, it can be conveyed through your marketing program. Here are some guidelines for taking a stand as a company:
1. Choose a cause that is important to your customers. If you are selling fishing poles, you can tell your market the value to the fishery of removing the dam. If you are selling hiking gear, how about supporting conservation and water recreation? How about opposing single use plastics?
2. Send the message that educates with the facts. What are the benefits to your consumer if the cause is realized? Consider the consequences of business as usual – to them, their families and the society as a whole. How can they help the cause? What are you doing as a company to help the cause?
3. Set an example. The way you hire and treat your people, the safety of the materials you choose to build your products, and the policies of your suppliers all speak volumes. So do the health, exercise and diet options you provide your staff, as well as your company’s carbon foot print.
There was a time in this country not too long ago when environmentalists were considered radicals, bent on stopping the growth of the economy. The entire LGBT community was (and in some ways still is) marginalized with a kind of second-class citizenship. If your company had taken a stand early on, would you have more loyal customers in these groups today?
There are many worthy causes that merit your support. Don’t be afraid to do the right thing. You may find that when you take a stand, others will stand with you. Don’t be conspicuous by your absence. Why simply pitch your product when you can champion a movement?
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