New Brands Must Survive Repeated Murder Attempts Since it’s Halloween, we thought we’d share a scary brand story. For the first five years of our brand’s existence, we had to survive various attempts to kill it. Even after that, we had to be constantly vigilant to protect it from threats to its very life in every new market. It was pretty scary stuff for the young, unwary new brand owners we once were!

When it comes to consumer goods, there is only so much shelf space. It is a coveted commodity, fought over and, in some industries, sold to the highest bidder. Commissioned salespeople do not want to see a new brand show up in their territory because it will take away from the total shelf space available, and that affects their brand and their commissions.

New brands, scrutinized by the buyers to see how quickly they sell, can easily become victims. A month or two is all the time they have, before they face sudden death – discontinued, pretty much forever.

Barefoot survived some frightening times. If we hadn’t, there would be no Barefoot Wine today. Here are some of the booby traps and attacks many new brands will face:

Signs of Injury

Our signs were missing. Point of sale signs, such as tags on the neck of our bottles, signs on the shelf, or larger signs behind a floor display sometimes magically disappeared. Depending on how often our sales rep visited that store, this could go on for some time, significantly reducing sales and making our brand appear to be a slow mover to the buyer. That spells the death of a brand.

Pull the Plug

Our reorder codes were removed. This was our lifeline to getting fresh product on the shelves. Looking up the brand’s code was often too much trouble for the night clerk who did the reordering, and it was easier to just let it run out of stock. This, of course, meant fewer sales and could lead to discontinuance – especially in a new test market.

Blood Stains

Sometimes our labels were splashed with red wine stains, which gave them an unclean look that nobody wanted to buy. This can happen when a bottle is broken in the case, maybe during shipping. If our rep didn’t catch it immediately, the one bad label in front would stop the sales of all the clean bottles lined up behind it.


Our bottles were taken off the shelf and hidden elsewhere in the store or behind other brands. Sometimes they were moved to a dark, creepy corner of the store, where no one ventured but the spiders.

Bury the Body

Potato chips and other freestanding items were placed in front of our product on the shelf. Sometimes, stacks of a competitor’s products were placed in front of ours so ours were out of sight. The slowest sales we ever had were of the bottles that no one could see.

How did we defend our brand from an early and untimely death? We practiced constant vigilance and became aware of the lurking goblins. We never allowed our young brand to go out into an unknown market without a chaperone, a commissioned representative who worked directly for us. There are many villains that can kill your brand, but having your own rep in every market will help scare most of them off.

We learned the hard way but finally got serious about protecting our brand in new markets. We had a sales rep wherever we had our product. Barefoot Wine is a survivor, and earned the reputation “The Brand that would not die.”






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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