Just when you thought everything was made in China, just when you thought there was no alternative to products that didn’t hold up, just when you thought that American manufacturing was dead, here comes Darn Tough! This plucky little Vermont sock company, founded in 2004, is demonstrating that Quality, Value, and Integrity are still alive and well in the United States – and in demand!
Their website boldly states: “At Darn Tough Vermont we produce the Finest Premium All Weather Performance Socks on the market.” – Period! And their customers don’t just like them, they love them! We are happy to be counted among Darn Tough’s growing number of enthusiastic fans! Here is a product we all need. Here is a product that is an extension of our body. And here is a product you can depend on. Yes, depend on. Their socks are sold with a lifetime, no questions asked, guarantee. In fact, if you wear them out, they will replace them for free.
We love this company for many reasons but the top reason has to be their disrupting brand premise that people will pay for quality, if for no other reason, than it is cheaper in the long run. In these days of disposable everything, we have been kidding ourselves in to believing that the lowest price is always king, no matter what. But if you have to buy the same product over and over again because it’s so cheaply made, then where is the savings? It’s actually more expensive to buy the apparently cheaper product. Darn Tough’s phenomenal growth is demonstrating an increasing demand for quality products that last. We hope they are starting a trend to bring us as consumers back to our senses!
The other reason we love this company is it’s integrity. No questions asked, money back guarantee! How many brands can put their money where their brand promise is? Darn few! But Darn Tough’s integrity goes beyond their guarantee: it goes on to their choice of supplies, the way they treat their people, and the personal touch the owners put into every aspect of the business.
When asked, “What makes their socks so tough?” they answer that they live and work in Vermont, a state with an “unforgiving climate,” a perfect testing ground for the “finest performance socks.” They ski, snowboard, hike, bike and run in this kind of weather.
Their product is distinguished by more stitches per inch and advanced knitting techniques that enable the finest fitting performance socks available. Their socks are made of Marino wool and cool max blends to enable softness, durability and moisture management. They have strategic ribbing to improve the fit, elastic arch support, and more. They’ve really thought it out and are delivering a top quality product.
Here then is the opportunity for American brand builders. Learn from the Darn Tough Vermont example. They were brave and confident enough to test the consumer market with a high quality product and put their reputation on the line. And guess what? They were right! There is an expanding market for real quality. It’s not the cheapest shelf price, it’s the best for the money.
That’s the kind of brand promise we hope will inspire the next generation of consumer product brand builders. The next generation of consumers is already doing the math and is beginning to see where the real savings are – not having to constantly dispose of and re-buy more cheap products, but making an investment in well-made products that stand the test of time. And, they are made right here in the USA!
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