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VOL. 36 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 16, 2012

Reaching retail’s promised land

Social media the key to Brentwood brothers getting their product into Walmart

By Harriet Wallace

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Brentwood brothers Drew and Timothy Bourke will see their product on Walmart shelves in 2013, and all it took was $1 million, three years, an aggressively sophisticated social media plan and very thick skin.

“Getting a product into resale is the longest, most frustrating and most expensive thing anyone can ever do,’’ says co-owner, co-creator Drew Bourke.

The Super Rope Cinch

“It’s actually why most people fail. Not because they don’t have a good product or idea. They run out of patience and money.”

The brothers designed and developed Super Rope Cinch, a product used to secure a rope using a plastic device instead of an actual knot.

“My goal was to create a product that solved a common, every day problem,” Timothy Bourke explains.

Becoming a Walmart supplier

  • Get to know Walmart
  • Apply to be a supplier. Depending on your business category, you must meet specific requirements
  • Satisfy 13-point Standards for Suppliers criteria. These standards cover a variety of issues, from compliance with laws, treatment of workforce (hours, conditions, compensation, etc.) to a ban on potential suppliers offering “gifts or entertainment” to Walmart employees. The complete list is available at http://corporate.walmart.com/suppliers/.

The device slides on to rope, then locks the rope in place with a twist. It’s strong enough to tie boats, tents, luggage to rooftops and even something as simple as a backpack.

Drew Bourke

Walmart will sell the rope device in February in its 3,700 U.S. stores and, by June, it will be available in Walmart’s Canadian stores.

While the product is simple and easy to use, the process of getting people to buy into it was not, Drew Bourke says.

The brothers, who put nearly $1 million into the device’s manufacture and marketing, tested it first with several consumers. They believed they were ready for the next level, meeting with Walmart personnel twice.

Super Rope Cinch was turned down both times and didn’t appear headed to mass production.

Drew Bourke says they had the product, business team and infrastructure in place to handle the volume of orders that would come from being sold by the world’s largest retailer, but still couldn’t meet one of Walmart’s most critical standards: Consumer demand.

Shifting Focus

Drew Bourke, owner of a Brentwood-based public relations and marketing firm, decided it was time to put his day-job skills to work. His challenge was to make people aware of a product they had never heard of and didn’t know they needed.

“Our biggest problem, people aren’t searching a way to tie rope, so we are starting behind,” he says. “For example, if you are looking for a shoe, people know to look for a shoe. They didn’t know about the Super Rope Cinch.”

He decided to invest time in social media, a place that Super Rope Cinch had not yet ventured.

“(Walmart) absolutely loved the product, but they were not willing to put it in the stores yet. They like to see that a company has been established for two years before putting it in the store. They wanted to see more public awareness on the product,” Drew Bourke says.

Social Media Success

As a marketing expert, he then launched one of his most intense and time-consuming social media ventures.

For the last 18 months, Drew Bourke has dedicated half of his work day every day to writing blogs and uploading posts on Facebook and Twitter. His posts include instructional videos, pictures and interactive information.

Using this type of multi-leveled social media campaign on several platforms, Walmart took the hint, and in less than a year, the Bourkes’ Super Rope Cinch was approved by Walmart.

“Social media is 100% the reason we’ve received retail distribution for our product. Any company, whether it be a new or existing product, if you do not have a strong, and overwhelmingly strong social media presence, consumers will look elsewhere,” Drew Bourke says.