Brand WinnerIn our desire to get through the mountain of information that increasingly bombards us, we demand oversimplification. In an instant gratification world of texts, tweets, and short sound bites, we won’t tolerate any detailed explanations. We want to hear “just the one thing” that piques our interest or distinguishes the information. That’s where the misunderstandings, misconceptions and mistakes begin. We want our information so boiled down that it can gloss right over the essential aspects we really need.

This problem has become critical in understanding what makes one brand a success and another brand a failure. It starts with the media’s simplification of the word “brand” itself, which has become somewhat synonymous with the word “logo.” We hear this all the time. At media interviews, we’re often asked, “Was Barefoot Wine brand a success because of the cute logo?” And that’s usually followed by, “Just tell us the one thing that made Barefoot a success.” It wasn’t the cute foot, and there’s no one thing. But who’s going to listen to a lengthy explanation, especially in a 2 minute segment!

Can you imagine, on your next flight, asking the attendant, “Just tell me the one thing that keeps this airplane in the air?” Never mind the engines, navigation, pilot, reduced drag design, complicated mechanical support, or hundreds of electronic and hydraulic parts that all have to work together to make it fly. Yet the lack of any one of those would make your flight impossible. But what if the answer you received was just simply, “lift?” Would that give you the knowledge you need to discuss aircraft? Could you go on to build and fly a plane? Probably not, but the temptation might be to simply say, “Got it!” Many folks feel satisfied with short answers they don’t need to spend much time thinking about.

Brands are like airplanes with many principles, aspects, and disciplines that need to be mastered – even before you have the luxury of designing your logo. Some designers and branding consultants will take advantage of your oversimplified view of a brand. They will focus on logo design, and they will take great pains to match your business card with your website, and your label with your stationary. A great logo design and its use on paper products and media will not in itself make sales happen. It’s not “the one thing” that will make your brand a success. It’s just that designing a logo is tangible. You can see it. But like airplanes, you don’t see what’s keeping them flying!

In fact, our logo was very cute from the get go, but it took 10 years to really gain traction in the national marketplace. We have seen mediocre logos become famous by a kind of rote. Some products are pushed masterfully through the distribution system, and become ubiquitous – and therefore popular. Then logo designers will try to imitate their logos simply because they had dominated a market segment, or began to represent stability.

So the next time you ask, “Just tell me the one thing that makes this brand a success,” remember, there’s probably not just one thing. And it’s certainly not just a cute logo. Get the detailed answer before designing an airplane, or a brand. Got it?

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