It’s hard to believe that your own team can damage your brand, but most brands are killed from self-inflicted wounds, not murdered by the competition. As you start out the New Year, be vigilant that your own people don’t take action that inadvertently hurts your brand.
In your team’s well-meaning attempts to improve profitability, standardize, or make their personal mark on the brand, they can break the brand promise and lose your following.
Your production folks want to make their jobs easier. They can also suffer from hubris, believing that the product they produce is the most important component of your business. Most have no background in sales, making it easy for them to take sales for granted.
Most get paid whether or not a sale is made – until they get their pink slips. Then the excuse is “the sales people didn’t do their job.” The fact is your sales people can only sell what you produce. When production takes away quality, performance and dependability in the name of efficiency, sales become more difficult. Production can make their jobs so easy that you lose your customers. Don’t let that happen!
At the beginning of the New Year, review your production people’s goals to see if they negatively impact sales. Here’s what to look out for:
1. Standardizers. When your company has multiple brands, production may want to reorganize or change them to make some corporate sense out of your range. They may not realize that some unique aspect of a particular brand is what draws the customer in the first place. But because it saves money to standardize, you may go for it. Check with sales first!
2. Remodelers. They want to reformulate, redesign, and repackage your product. This may seem like a good idea. After all, everyone in the office likes it, but what about your sales people out in the marketplace? And more importantly, your consumer who may be shocked, confused and let down by the change? Remember the old saying, “Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke!”
3. Mark Makers. These folks are often new to your company and want to get ahead quickly by making what they think is an improvement to your product, parts, or packaging. They want to “make their mark.” Be especially wary if they have ascended to a management position where they can make a production decision that can break your brand’s promise just to move their career ahead.
4. Flushers. When a production mistake is made, they say, “Oh. We’ll just flush it through the system.” But the “system” is your consumer, not some impersonal distribution channel without a real person at its end. The disappointed consumer can not only stop buying, but they can bad mouth your brand to their friends, saying, “It used to be my brand, but not anymore! The quality really went downhill!”
5. Conspirators. We will talk more about this phenomenon next time, but for now, be wary of your production people ganging up with your finance people to “save money.” They can inadvertently reduce quality queues in the name of profitability. All their assumptions are based on your sales remaining the same or increasing, when their cost-saving move may be the very reason why sales take a dive!
In Part 3 we will discuss how your accounting people can hurt your brand. Stay alert and stay tuned for more!
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