For instance, when we were building the Barefoot Wine brand, we were confronted by the retailers’ physical and time restraints when we made a presentation. We knew that if we could show the buyers our entire range all at once, they would be impressed with the colorful lineup. If we could show our shelf and display merchandising materials, for each type, they would appreciate what we had to offer.
We knew had we only a few seconds to get all this in front of them. But if we could, they would have a positive first impression and most probably buy!
Our industry saw no need for such a solution because they believed their distributers would present their new brand for them in the best light. So, we took a cue from other industries.
The Fuller Brush man and the Mary Kay lady both had beautifully designed demo cases that unfolded to show their products quickly and in the best light. Inspired by their solution, we invented a hand-carried, quick opening “sell case,” specifically designed to carry and protect 7 bottles with a series of unfolding panels to showcase our brand in an instant. It worked!
At trade shows, we found we could gain more interest if we presented our products from a bar-height table, but at the time, all the portable tables were dining-height. We extended their height with pipes on the legs, added a long table cloth, and voila!
But wait! There’s more! Then we found our products would move faster with the awards they had garnered stickered right on to the bottles. At first, we applied the stickers manually in the stores, but that quickly proved too onerous. Why couldn’t we just put them on during the bottling process?
At the time, there was no such award-sticker applicator in our industry. But the canned food industry had one. Could it be adopted to a winery bottling line? Two years and fifty “no’s” later, we had it!
Also, we faced run-outs on the store shelves because, unbelievably, our product was selling so quickly that it wasn’t getting replaced fast enough. The distributers and the retailers told us it wasn’t selling because they were glued to the scan data.
Of course it wasn’t scanning! It was no longer on the shelf! At first, we were livid with the apparently poor customer service. It made our brand look undependable to the shopper, and retailers thought our bottles weren’t selling when just the opposite was the case.
We tried to fix the problem with tons of store visits, but we had to check every store every week. How could we know exactly where we had the run-outs and focus on them?
The distributer’s monthly report showed us how much of our products they sold each retailer each month. We hired custom programmers to create a special report that scanned all the distributer’s reports over time and noticed where and when deliveries dropped off or stopped entirely. Using this form of exception reporting, our proprietary “Account Saver” software rescued us! Now we could direct our people to the stores that ran out on the shelf and still had stock in the back room.
These are just a few of the “inventions” we had to create to overcome physical problems that were hurting our brand. So, keep your thinking cap on! Your product is only the first of your great ideas!
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