Tip #1: Make sure your packaging is as good as the product
It’s impossible to underestimate the role that packaging plays in today’s market. For example, custom bottles are almost a must in today’s market. As Beaudette points out, it’s always better to “err on the side of premium” when going to market. When you launch is no time to be conservative about the amount of money you are willing to spend to make your product look great. Bertha Gonzalez, the creator of the ultra-premium Casa Dragones Tequila brand, echoes that sentiment, “You only launch once, and you must do it with the right product.”
Tip #2: Use every element of your product to reinforce your brand
In the best-case scenario, every element of your product – the packaging, the name and the liquid itself – will reinforce the key values of your brand. If you want to enter the ultra-premium segment of the market, for example, then your packaging needs to reflect that. If you want to attract young millennials, then your packing should echo the values they support.
Tip #3: Search for the perfect distributor
For most brands entering the U.S. market, a common assumption is that the perfect distributor to partner with is the one with the biggest infrastructure and greatest financial strength to bring your product to market. However, for many brands, the perfect distributor might be far smaller. Felix Sencion of Presidente Beer, for example, suggests that brands look for distributors where they can play an important role in the overall portfolio mix. Distributors should value your product and what it represents, and not just treat it as one of 100 different brands they represent.
Tip #4: Get “feet in the street” to promote your brand
Too many brands assume that wholesalers or distributors will do all the heavy lifting for them. But that’s simply not the case. These companies only have a limited amount of time to make sales calls and will use most of that time to promote their most popular products. Thus, the ultimate success of a brand rests on the ability to get “feet in the street.” You need to have your own team of promoters who are passionate about the brand to make sure that it gets proper distribution.
Tip #5: Develop a great “hook” or story for your brand
In order to optimize your marketing spend, you need to have a great story that will encourage word-of-mouth buzz. As Kevin Mehra of Latitude Beverage Company (the creator of the brand 90 Plus) points out, “Great stories foster word of mouth and press, which is the best advertising a brand can get.” So encourage people to share your story on social media.
Tip #6: Understand how the Internet has changed the marketing game
In the Internet era, customers are much more informed about product offerings in the marketplace. They are bringing their digital devices with them right into a retail environment. Thus, when customers encounter your product on a retail product shelf, it is really a “moment of truth.” Does your product match up with what they already know and assume? If so, there’s a much better chance that they will buy your product.
Tip #7: Never underestimate the importance of company culture
Once a company has created a new brand, the emphasis should be on creating a team of creative, passionate people who will make the brand a success. As Kevin Mehra of Latitude Beverage Company points out, “Company culture and people are critical to building a successful brand.” You need to hire people that you will enjoy working with, and who share your own vision of the brand. Passion and perseverance are two important character traits that should be “must-haves” for any new hire.
Tip #8: Be patient
As Beaudette notes, too many brand owners enter the U.S. market thinking that they can achieve rapid success. However, there is no such thing as an overnight success. You need to be patient – it takes time to develop industry relationships and form the right strategic partnerships.
Tip #9: Don’t forget about funding
Without the right funding, a new brand is facing a very uphill battle for market success. One of the major mistakes made by brands, says Beaudette, is “the assumption of success in a limited time with limited funding.” Thus, focus on building the requisite financial strength in order to survive over the long run.
Tip #10: Build a business model for your brand
While the most glamorous part of any launch is building the initial brand story, there is actually a lot of financial planning that needs to go into any launch. You need to think realistically about timelines, about cash flow, and about how your product is ultimately going to be successful in the U.S. market.
What all these tips for a successful brand launch have in common, says Beaudette, is a relentless focus on creating a “consistently great product.” To ensure that you are on the right path suggests Beaudette, it’s important to score, track and self-review how well you are doing in five key areas:
1. Product creation and development
2. Route to market (including distribution and channel strategy)
3. Marketing and sales
4. Infrastructure (including operations and team building)
5. Business planning
A great brand will score highly in all five of these areas. It may be possible to achieve success with excellence in just four of these areas – but you will need to compensate for any weaknesses with even more passion and perseverance. As Beaudette is quick to point out, there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution for every brand, but there are certain themes that all successful brand launches share in common.
About John Beaudette:
Since 1995, John Beaudette has been President and CEO of MHW, Ltd. (formerly named Monsieur Henri Wines, Ltd.). From 1985 to 1994, Mr. Beaudette worked with PepsiCo Inc. and its affiliate company MHW in the distribution of Stolichnaya Vodka and other wine and spirit brands. During this period, Mr. Beaudette held positions such as Director of Planning for PepsiCo Wines & Spirits Intl. and VP of Finance & CFO of MHW, Ltd. Prior to joining PepsiCo, Mr. Beaudette was Manager of Accounting for Somerset Importers, Ltd., US importers of Tanqueray TM, Johnnie Walker TM, and other spirit brands.
He currently sits on the Board of Directors of The National Association of Beverage Importers Inc. (NABI) in Washington D.C., serving as Chairman and a member of its Executive Committee. In addition to being a well-recognized industry leader, John Beaudette is an international public speaker who has traveled the world, educating suppliers and government agencies about Brand Entry in the US & Navigating the Three Tier system.