TBA Pic 1292015In this series we have been examining threats from inside your own organization that can kill your brand in the New Year. Now is the time to be on guard against them. As we like to say, brands are not murdered by the competition, but die of self-inflicted wounds.

Previously we covered Marketing, Production, Accounting and Legal, and what to do in each division to preserve your brand.

Since your brand is only as good as your customers’ experience with your branded products, you must ask yourself, “Are my products physically available for my customer to buy?” If they are not, the customer feels that the brand is undependable, unreliable and hard to get. Under these circumstances, even loyal customers will buy a competing brand and feel obligated to bad mouth yours. How does this happen?

The #1 brand killer for consumer product brands sold through a distribution channel is out-of-stock conditions. Your product could have been mis-delivered or not reordered for a variety of reasons that have nothing to do with the quality or the price. It may still be in the retailer’s back room but it never made it to the shelf. Meanwhile your competition took your space!

Perhaps the retailer didn’t pay their bill last month and now your distributor won’t deliver any products to them, including yours! And what do the clerks tell your customers when this happens? “Oh, we don’t carry that brand anymore,” or “It’s really hard to get,” or even worse, “That company went out of business.”  Your brand will be blamed for the behavior of others in your distribution channel. This is why you and your people must be watching the distributors, the retailers, and the shelves every day!

If you sell a brand that is used by the general public, even if it passes through several other businesses to get to them, watch out! Don’t say, “That problem doesn’t apply to me because I am a ‘B2B’ (business to business) and getting it to the end-user is someone else’s responsibility. I get paid whether or not they sell my branded products.”  That may be true today, but your brand is dying at their hands. If your brand is going through a distributor who is selling to third parties such as retailers who are selling to the general public, there is no such thing as “B2B.” It’s more like “B2B2B2C” where “C” is the consumer. As a responsible brand steward, you have to make it your business to make sure your brand is managed properly all along the line. Your brand’s reputation is at stake.

So now you are in the distribution management business because out-of-stocks can happen anywhere along the channel. Your people must police every level to keep the supply flowing smoothly, even if they have to do the distributor’s or the retailer’s “job.” Make sure your salespeople are not content “blaming” the distribution channel for out-of-stocks. Make sure they are “aiming” at the causes and removing them. Yes, it requires time, labor, and sacrifice. This was the biggest lesson we learned building the Barefoot Wine Brand, and the biggest single contributor to its success!

So don’t worry so much about the competition. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and use their expectations as a standard to measure the well-meaning initiatives, restrictions and excuses coming from your own people. In their desire to help out, don’t let them inadvertently break the brand promise!

This concludes our 5-part series. We hope we have given you a heads up on the home front threats, and some tools you can use to protect your brand throughout the New Year!  Cheers!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) & Shelf Smarts courses to help consumer product brand builders achieve success. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular business site at www.thebarefootspirit.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.