TBA PicThe best brand building signs and merchandising materials we ever saw were in the dumpsters of the very distributers who were expected to use them to sell the products of the brands they represented. What were they doing there? Because the distributers only had a limited amount of space in their warehouses, and needed to make room for next month’s new marketing materials from hundreds of producers, they created the space they needed by dumping any unused material from the last month.

Well, if they used the materials and put them up in the marketplace, wouldn’t that have solved their space requirements without such waste? Sure, but the sad fact is that distributors, jobbers, and wholesalers (with few exceptions) don’t bother to use all the materials they receive. As a matter of fact, we saw literally tons of very expensive advertising materials, with clever catch phrases and compelling logos, all mixed up in a jumble in the warehouses of distributers from coast to coast. Many had been driven over by a fork lift or two in an attempt to reduce their mass before they found their way to the overfilled dumpsters.

So much for the way it looked on the marketing designer’s screen back at the producer’s office. But that designer rarely, if ever, gets out into the market to witness the carnage of his or her clever marketing and merchandising materials.

Oh, and when sales are down, the distributers say, “Lower your price and send more marketing materials!” Yet, your previous shipment of expensive and thoughtfully designed marketing materials likely never saw the light of day.

When we saw our expensive materials discarded in the trash we soon came to the realization that we could only rely on our very own people, in each market, to actually it put up in our materials. Nobody was going to do it for us, especially when we were new and not much of a consideration for our distributers. This was a hard pill to swallow because it meant having a representative in each territory to do what we thought the distributor should be doing. It was going to be expensive, but at least the materials we had so thoughtfully created were finally going to get up on our displays and start building our brand.

Probably the most painful lesson we learned building the Barefoot Wine brand was that you can create the best marketing materials in the world with a great logo and compelling catch phrases, and if it’s in the dumpster, it won’t help you build your brand! So we had to take two steps back to take one step forward. It was years before we made such an impact on our distributers that they would use our materials, but by that time, our brand was built in their territory – by our own people!

We have spoken to thousands of students and we find it interesting that very few schools that teach marketing mention this problem we found so prevalent. Most new and naive brand builders assume their materials are in use in the market, and when sales are down, they just send more.

Serious brand builders must go into the market personally to see if their materials are being used in the way they intended. They hire representatives for each territory to ensure they are up, even if it means that they have to grow slower than originally planned. And they never send more materials when sales are down because they know that when sales are down, so are their materials!



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.