“The Thank You Economy”

On Tuesday we had the pleasure of attending Gary Vaynerchuk’s book signing in Marin County. He champions a classic message for a new generation and a new economy: “Companies that show they care have the market advantage.”

Brands have to stand for more than the products they represent. We call it the “Soul of the Brand”. Today, the brands that communicate and give back and work with their customers perform the best.

There are many ways to show the customer you care. Customer service and consistent value are just the beginning. How do you stand on the issues your customers care about? How do you show it? How does your product communicate that message?

When we started Barefoot, we had no funds. We actually started in debt, somebody else’s debt, which we assumed. We traded that debt for wine and services to begin Barefoot.

The idea was to achieve a popular price for “personal house wine”, — an everyday wine for your house — by selling to the chains in large quantities. It sounded simple enough, but in 1986, none of the big chains would carry Barefoot because it was unknown.

We knew we had to get the word out somehow, but couldn’t afford traditional advertising. That turned out to be a blessing. We discovered what we called “worthy cause marketing” and became an early case study for “The Thank You Economy” Vaynerchuk writes about in his new book.

They say that necessity is the mother of invention, but being under-capitalized is surely the father. Without money, we turned to worthy cause marketing and what we did have: kindred spirits, the marketplace, and wine, lots of wine.

We could donate wine to fundraisers for charities and causes, help them get their message out in the marketplace, and we could be part of their activities and events. But who to support?

It seemed pretty clear that if we were going to produce “personal house wine”, we should support the causes that mattered to our customers. That guided us to support the environment and conservation, recreation, health, and the arts, because those causes resonated personally with us, too. We felt like we were making a difference beyond just selling wine.

Barefoot became a best seller without conventional advertising. It achieved the industry’s coveted “Fast Track Growth Brand” and “Hot Brands Award” – all through “Worthy Cause Marketing”. I’ll cover that more in a future post.

Like it or not, companies are becoming more transparent, and what you stand for can be more important than what you produce. We need to rethink how we advertise and build our brands. Thank you Gary for reminding us to get back to basics.


About Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

Starting in a laundry room with no money or industry knowledge, they built the iconic Best-Selling Barefoot Wine Brand - without advertising. In 2005, they monetized their brand equity and now offer proven business principles and real world experience. Visit our YouTube Channel →

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