The two words that have the biggest impact on your CPG brand building efforts are, “THANK YOU!” This simple acknowledgment sends an important message of appreciation to your customers at every level of distribution – not just your consumers!

But who are you thanking? And what are you thanking them for? Answer these two questions and you will know how to express your gratitude in the most unforgettable way to engender a repeat of the behavior that has helped you and your brand.

Sometimes marketers and brand builders over-simplify the concept of brand building, especially when it comes to CPG branded products sold in bricks and mortar retail stores (still 90% of all retail sales according to the Department of Commerce). Sure, you should always thank your end-user customer or consumer for buying your branded products. But, who else deserves your appreciation? Who else are the “customers” you deal with on a regular basis?

Think for a moment: How many hands at how many levels did your product have to pass through before it got to your consumer?  What are those levels? Who are these guys? What do they do for your brand?  More importantly, what do they think about your brand? How does that affect their diligence in moving it along the chain to get to your consumer? Do they like you, your employees, your policies, your products, your packaging, your labeling, and even your paperwork?

A giant part of brand building in the retail space is giving the people all along the distribution chain a reason to like you. One good reason is that you demonstrate appreciation. In fact, they want to do more for the person and the brand that appreciates them. Remember, they are in a position to affect your inventory, delivery, price, and shelf space. If they don’t like you and go strictly by the book, you may find yourself out of stock quickly in their warehouses and on their retail shelves. Your consumers will think your brand is undependable.

So, in every territory where you are on the shelf, you’ve got a lot of folks to thank. It’s the forklift operator, it’s the trucker, it’s the clerk. And it’s all the salespeople who work for you or your distributors, brokers, or wholesalers.

“Thank you” is the grease that keeps the machinery of distribution moving.

Most brand builders don’t even consider what impact the distribution channel has on their brand – until it fails. They assume that this channel will operate smoothly without their attention or concern.

The best-designed label, the cutest logo, and the most compelling catchphrase in the world can be stopped cold by glitches in distribution. So, have some genuine appreciation for the distribution channel and all its moving parts at every level. It is dependent solely on the people.

Start with your own people working diligently in their offices, “Thanks for supporting your sales team!” Then your salespeople, “Thanks for your extra efforts to sell our brand!” Then your distributors’ owners, “Thanks for taking our brand!”  Then, your distributors’ sales managers, “Thanks for working with us to achieve the numbers!” Then, your distributors’ salespeople, “Thanks for getting our brand into the marketplace!” Then your retail store buyers, “Thanks for carrying our brand!” Then your retail clerks, “Thanks for recommending our brand and keeping it on the shelf!”

These folks rarely get acknowledged or appreciated as much as they truly deserve. Often they are subjected to blame and yelled at, yes. But appreciated? Not so much. So be the one, be the brand that understands their vital role in your brand building efforts. Because, when it comes to CPG brand building, you must build your brand at every level of distribution. The distribution chain is only as strong as its weakest link. When it breaks – WATCH OUT!  You will be left without even a consumer to thank!

Happy Thanksgiving to all you Brand Builders! And THANK YOU for reading our articles!

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

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact