My first “proper” job was as a Graduate Management Trainee at a wine company and I couldn’t have wished for a better start to my working life. It was a firmly established company, with clear brand values and a clear ethos, run by an inspiring team of passionate people and a very strong culture of staff empowerment – plus, they sold amazing wines. I was in my early 20s, had just left university and was given responsibility and accountability from Day One.
The Big Mistake came very quickly and I am forever grateful that I was allowed to make it, learn from it and move on – taking the learning with me through my working life.
Let me explain. The company commissioned artwork to illustrate the wine lists and there was some artwork which really appealed to me. The images were bold, bright and contemporary and I wanted to own one. My idea developed and I suggested we created and sold prints of the original artwork. To my great pride, the idea was approved and the project was mine. The artist gave consent, specialist printers were found and packaging was identified. And then I made the Big Mistake.
I absolutely loved the pictures, so wouldn’t everyone else? And as there were tens of thousands of potential customers, we would need to print a substantial quantity. And buy enough packaging for all the prints that would be bought. So I committed to a considerable number of prints, frames and packaging to meet the (inevitable) high demand.
The Big Mistake was to think that, because I knew the brand, I knew the customers and that they were the same as me. Without dwelling on the numbers, I can tell you that no-one loved the pictures as much as I did, that there wasn’t enough room to store all the unsold prints and packaging and it wasn’t a project which I was invited to repeat.
Two of the prints hang in my home. I smile every time I see them – because I love them and because they taught me a vital marketing lesson. Know your customer.