I am feeling pretty good about myself lately. My articles are getting a lot of comments, “likes” and feedback. In this Snapchat world, this is how we measure happiness. Now I am not in search of the spotlight so much to think that I am a spectacular writer or orator. But what I do believe is that I have hit a nerve with the adult beverage public. I believe that through the convergence of experience and success, it is time for the voice to be heard from the independent brand and distributor.
I had coffee today with a former client that aside from a nice guy is also a craft distiller in the great state or Michigan. We lamented at our local Starbucks about how big distribution is specifically designed to keep small brands small. That is why the success of Tito’s and Fireball are like legendary stories that grandparents tell their grandkids. “Listen son, I remember when a vodka finally broke through the clutter of Stoli, Grey Goose and Kettle One” It is like a Cubs World Series win; at least you can see one in your lifetime.
Cold realities from a three-tier expert like myself. While events like the upcoming WSWA are good events, it will push your brand no further along than hard work and pounding the street.
As independent brands, distributors and retailers we need to align in a way that allows for our survival and dare I say, success. You see, yesterday, while talking to an M & A friend in the business, he was sharing that he has never been busier with big companies like LVMH purchasing smaller, independent brands instead of creating and growing their own.
The handwriting on the wall clearly dictates that independent brands have no clear channel to sell mass cases. This principle also plays out at the distributor level. Strong brands sell through the Big 5, and strong distributors get strong brands, so how is a small brand and a small distributor going to grow.
Reminds me very much of getting out of undergrad and looking for work. I am unable to get a job without 5 years of experience and cannot get experience with 5 years of a job. I call this a circle of decline in cases.
There are ways for small brands and small distributors to succeed. There are ways for a small, craft brand to come to market and be successful when there is a head wind every day.
Looking at your market from a selling lens. Being in the right cities for the right drinker for the right product is a good start. High and wide is not a go to market strategy.
Think of growing your brand like growing your child. Not all activities will benefit the child but the right set of activities will nurture and grow your child beyond your hopes. In my own kids case, when I was able to focus them on their strengths they flourished.
More about the brand and distribution model for the rest of us, to come soon.