word of mouthWhat we dubbed Worthy Cause Marketing back in 1990 was really an outcome from a serious business problem: How could we get the word out about our products when we had no money for commercial advertising?

We discovered something very important when we got a call one day from a neighborhood non-profit looking for a donation for a kids-after-school park. We had no money for a cash donation but we did have product which we donated for their fundraiser. As a result, the membership of that non-profit was able to sample our products and saw that we supported their cause. Sales in the nearby retail account took off.

When we finally put it together that sales were up in that store because we supported the local neighborhood fundraiser, we decided to try it in another neighborhood. It worked! Then we realized that we didn’t have to give up our true passion which was conservation and civil rights just because we were in business. We realized that we could support worthy causes that were worthy of us, our brand, and our products as a way of getting the word out in lieu of costly advertising that we couldn’t afford anyway.

In fact it worked so well that even when we could afford commercial advertising we did not do it. And we discovered something else that was very important yet subtle. The members of the non-profits we supported not only selected our products when they had a choice, but they actively promoted them to friends, family, neighbors and co-workers. They also promoted our products through their networks by thanking us for our support.

We began to realize another important lesson. Part of the discovery process that makes people want to share their discovery is not only the knowledge that the product is great, but also and most importantly, that the person they are turning on to the product couldn’t have known about it any other way. They believe this precisely because they have seen no commercial advertising. They know they will be gratified when their friend says, “Thanks for the great recommendation! We tried it and you were right. It’s great!” So now we had a business reason not to advertise, because the folks who were spreading the news by word of mouth would simply stop if they saw the commercial ads!

So isn’t this just another type of cause marketing? Not quite. The biggest distinction we can make between Worthy Cause Marketing and Cause Marketing is that within Cause Marketing, the support for the cause is advertised to the general public in the hopes that the general public will chose your brand because you are doing good. In Worthy Cause Marketing however, the support for the cause is not advertised to the general public, but is only known to the non-profits’ members and their supporters.

In both cases the decision to support the cause is a sincere intent to help that cause achieve its goals, but the process differs substantially. We have found that Worthy Cause Marketing creates a loyal following when practiced year after year on a long-term basis.

We were honored to be the keynote speakers today at the prestigious Pepperdine University in Southern California at the Margaret J. Weber Distinguished Lecture Series. Given the school’s admirable commitment to social entrepreneurship, we thought no topic could be more appropriate than Worthy Cause Marketing, a driving influence behind the success of the world’s largest wine brand. We hope that our demonstrated success will encourage start-ups, growth-phase and established companies to use Worthy Cause Marketing in their own businesses. We believe they will see, just as we did, that doing good is just plain good business!

Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.