Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Barefoot Wine Founders

By Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey – Barefoot Wine Founders

Vigilant Quality Control Can Save Your Brand's Reputation

Vigilant Quality Control Can Save Your Brand's Reputation 150 150 MIchael and Bonnie Harvey

When it comes to building your brand, your best supporters can become your worst critics—overnight! It takes years of consistent quality to grow a strong base of happy customers who will go the extra mile and actually promote your brand. This is the strongest and most sincere form of advertising.

Your brand supporters will tell neighbors, friends, and colleagues to buy your brand. They are confident doing so, because you have shown a consistent history of quality they now depend on. They want the people closest to them to have the same great experience they had. By recommending your brand to others, they put their own personal reputation on the line.

But, mess with the quality just once, and your supporters will immediately reconsider. They’ll feel compelled to warn others that your brand “isn’t what it used to be” and that its “quality has taken a turn.”

While we built the Barefoot Wine brand, we were offered a wine blend that was not up to par with our products. When we told the producing winery, they said “it will sell through” and that it was “acceptable for general consumption.” We knew that rejecting this wine could result in a loss for us, but our word-of-mouth reputation would be hurt if that product got to our customers. We would let our customers down, and we would turn our loyal supporters into detractors.

When the production people said the blend was acceptable for general consumption, they took the market for granted. We consistently put out a superior product for the money, and our customers were being labeled as, well, general. We constantly worried about our reputation and sales; meanwhile, they’re saying, “It’ll sell through—don’t worry!” Our hard-earned customers would expect this product to have the same quality they had grown to depend on, but they’d stop buying our brand completely after seeing the quality had taken a hit. Accepting that inferior product would mean permanent damage to our brand. So, we decided to reject the wine, which led to a financial loss, rather than hurt our brand’s reputation—which would have been much pricier in the long run.

Michael was shopping for groceries last week to entertain guests for the holidays. Chickpeas for the fresh crab salad were on the list. When he got home, Bonnie said, “Oh, no! Not that brand. I don’t buy their products anymore!” She was upset with Michael’s choice. “What’s wrong with this brand?” he asked. Bonnie retorted, “I used to buy their products. They had the best prices for organic beans, and they were always in stock. But the last time I bought their kidney beans, they fell apart and overcooked! I don’t have faith in that brand anymore.” Luckily for the brand (and for Michael!), the chickpeas were great and Bonnie will give them another try, but maybe not their kidney beans.

Did someone at this company think these beans were okay for general consumption? If Michael hadn’t chosen this brand by “mistake,” would Bonnie have bought it ever again? How many other people out there have gone from supporters to critics? It didn’t sell through—it stopped the brand’s future sales.

This is why diligent quality control is the foundation of brand building. Don’t allow production people to depreciate your branding efforts just to cover their bad quality control. Get on top of it—and stay there! Reputation is everything! It can enhance or completely destroy your brand—even if it’s just a can of beans.

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