So many inventors, makers, and consumer product producers get discouraged when their great idea doesn’t fly right off the shelves. They think that just because of its compelling merits, a great product should be an instant hit. And maybe it should. And sometimes it is. But more times than not it’s a sluggish start, and that can be dangerous.
Today, retailers want instant success. When you get a new placement in a store, the buyer will be watching your performance closely, and if your product doesn’t turn quickly, you’re out …forever! And now you will have the “nonstarter” stigma, and that is really hard to shake in the marketplace.
It may be that you have an excellent product at an excellent price, but it just doesn’t move fast enough. Sometimes it will move in one location but not in others. Other times your new product’s success will depend on the time of year it was introduced. Or, your new product may not move based on its position on the shelf or whether it got an introductory floor stack.
But let’s say you did everything right: right time of year, floor stack, good shelf position, right price and good quality. And still you have no movement. It could be because you were too early for the market. Maybe the market just didn’t yet see the need for your product. Or maybe, because it was so different from what they knew, they didn’t want to take a chance on it. Such was the case with Barefoot Wine.
Our price was right, our awards were well displayed, our logo was fun, recognizable, and easy to see. Wait, did we say “fun?” Yes, it was fun and that was an aspect folks at the time didn’t associate with wine. Some thought the big foot on our label was ridiculous or a joke – even with the all the awards. Our own staff wanted to make the foot smaller or get rid of it all together. It actually took about 4 years before the market began to appreciate the humor, easy to remember, and find label. What if we had given up on The Foot?
Because of our concept of non-snobby, easy drinking, non-vintage wine blends, we found ourselves fighting an uphill battle. Not so much with the ultimate customer, the 37-yr-old mom with 2 kids, but with the gatekeepers at all levels. From the distributers, to the salespeople, from the store managers to the retail clerks, they were not ready for Barefoot. In fact, they were not ready until we proved it to them that it would sell – and sell well!
Like most new product producers, we started out in love with our product and we were sure that everyone else would love it too. However, we entered the market at the wrong time, and we tried to sell off the shelf with no introductory floor stacks. We thought customers would just discover our product and buy on its price, value and cute “foot.” Wrong. We actually failed in several markets because of our own misconceptions.
The market just wasn’t ready. We had to pull back and start over again. But this time we did the “missionary work” of proving ourselves in small markets. We had to prove to the gatekeepers that the concept was viable, profitable, and that fun was OK and would sell wine. Just imagine!
So, today we advise new product producers to start off slowly in a limited market. Get the reputation of being a “fast mover” first, and then take that with you as you expand into larger markets. And don’t give up!
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