Castling is a chess move where, under certain circumstances, you can change your king’s position and the position of your castle (or rook) at the same time. This is generally a defensive move, used to get you out of harm’s way, but it can also position you for an attack.

This is what happened to us in Alabama. For years we were trying to get into that market, but the retail shelves were full. The Big Boys dominated the market and we just had to wait until there was space for little ole us.

One year, at an industry conference, we heard that one of the Big Competitors in our space was being acquired. Its acquirer wanted to consolidate its distribution into the Big National Network of Distributers that carried all the rest of their brands. We looked at the states where our competitor would be pulled from one distributer and given to another. Bingo! Alabama was in the cross hairs. A rather large, independent, statewide distributer in Birmingham was poised to lose our biggest competitor. We jumped on plane to Birmingham the very next day!

We realized that the independent distributer had built our competitor’s brand in every store in Alabama over a period of 5 years. This distributer had a lot to lose! They had nothing else in their offerings that could fill that price and category. Unless of course, they took in Barefoot Wines. So quick, before they lost the other brand and all their shelf space, they swapped out our competitor’s brand for Barefoot in every store that had it.

Presto! We went from not being available anywhere in Alabama to being for sale everywhere – in just a few weeks! Needless to say, if we hadn’t been looking for an opportunity like this, we would have never seen it. The market dynamics would have changed with or without our noticing it.

Today, we advise our clients to be on the lookout or subtle changes in the market dynamics that can help them grow and expand their brand. But they have to be vigilant, sensitive, and light on their feet to move fast enough to jump on those opportunities when the time is right.

So many CPG brands get bogged down in a market that seems to be intransient. But the very moves of your competitors can give you the opening you’ve been waiting for. The big, lethargic companies are all about uniformity, standardization, and consolidation. Sometimes those moves can have beneficial side effects for you! Our big competitor never dreamed that their products would be suddenly swapped out for an unknown brand in their category. They never dreamed that the distributer they were moving to would also be big and lethargic, so much so, that by the time they realized what was happening, bam! They had lost their shelf space in Alabama. Now there was no room for them! Plus, this way we did not have to compete with them in that market which made our brand a big hit in Alabama overnight!

Keep you eyes peeled for acquisitions, mergers and consolidations in the marketplace. They can often set off a chain reaction of events that can benefit your brand, but only if you are ready to make the right move!


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