I have seen things. I have been on the front lines, and it was horrific. The fight was between budgets and brands. The fight was between trying to catch a buyer and having said buyer sneak out the backdoor or worse ignore the meeting. The fight was between parking lots, parking meters, brand bags with broken wheels, traffic, rudeness, wait times, and hard dispensed declines. I have seen war in the adult beverage selling world, and it is ugly. The battle between the seller and the buyer is ugly, yet is should be friendly.
I spent this week in Los Angeles with my BevStrat team “working” the market. Although the market worked me. I am sounding like an old man but “I remember” when there was this friendly relationship between buyer and seller. We were all working together to make progress and money. The account was getting a good product that they could sell, and the sales person was selling a good item that they could stand behind.
Long gone is that day! Like LOOOONG GONE.
We are not distributors or suppliers, but we market wonderful goods that are independent, rare, allocated, special, and high margin. We drag bags from account to account to market items from small wineries, distilleries, and breweries. We sell items that the independent account can support and make money with while not having to pimp Kendall Jackson in a gross margin free for all. We are an asset to the account or at least our brands are. This is how we feel. But…
The other side of the craft boom is – there are just too many items out there. Too many of all the wines, beers, and spirits that the independent is forced to choose the commodity brands because there are too many of the small guys. The result of all the positive stories on an increasing number of “craft” players is that it has snowballed into thousands and thousands of (extra) craft goods in market. The account, the mixologist, the store cannot take many more slow pull items. No matter how much you, the maker, believe in your items, the other side is that it is just too much. This is what I learned this week, that the movement that has been created in the boom is also the rise of the bust. There are always two sides of a hill!
So as an advocate of small brands and having built a thriving business around small brands I am not here to discourage you, but rather to talk about market pull and how to not only get your brand on the shelf but also off the shelf.
That is the message I heard over and over this week.
“I can take this, but how are you going to help me sell it?”
So- I implore my clients, friends and makers everywhere to look at pull programs as much as you think about fermentation process and malic acid. There will be a time where that is what matters more than what is in the bottle.
Going into battle with a gun and no bullets is the same losing fight. Creating a brand, selling a brand, and now, sadly, creating pull for the consumer to buy the brand is all the same war process. As makers, you all are required to do more for less profit more competition. That is where the adult beverage game is today.
Three Tier Talk
by Brian Rosen, www.BevStrat.com
Brian Rosen is Former CEO of America’s #1 Retailer, Sam’s Wines in Chicago, Former Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Retail and sought after retailer consultant.
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