A Marketing Fable

I like marketing stories, be they true or otherwise. One of my favorites is about the McIlhenny Company, a family owned business on Avery Island, Louisiana. Avery Island is a salt dome in the deep bayou country, a few miles from New Iberia. The company manufactures Tabasco sauce, as they have since 1868.

Tabasco 1Management of the McIlhenny Company is now in its seventh generation. This fable starts with a generation change. Once upon a Friday afternoon, the elder leader was retiring and the staff was gathered for reminiscences, speeches and such. In due course, the new manager spoke. He lauded the elder, as one would expect. Then he challenged the staff. The challenge was to find ways to double the sales of Tabasco sauce within one year. He asked everyone to think of ways to do this by the following Friday.

On the following Friday, the staff met again. There were many really good suggestions, such as product line extensions, neck ties and aprons with the Tabasco logo, recipe books for bartenders, and on and on. The new manager expressed sincere appreciation for these ideas, and said that many would be tried. “But”, he said, “that’s not how we will double the sales of Tabasco sauce within one year”. “We’re going to make the hole in the bottle bigger!” [1]


How true is the fable? Don’t know. Doesn’t matter. What matters with a fable is the moral. And the moral of this fable is that imaginative marketing can do absolute wonders for an apparently local product made by a little family company in a place that’s way past where the sidewalk ends.

Tabasco sauce is a global phenomenon, sold in 132 countries. I can’t imagine an American supermarket that doesn’t carry Tabasco sauce. There are a number of line extensions — a milder version in a green bottle, a barbeque version and several more. The company leverages its brand by licensing its name and logo on a remarkably diverse collection of apparel and gift items. The company’s website even has an on-line store, in case you can’t wait. [2]

Doubling the Sales of Your Sauce?

There are only so many ways to rapidly and substantially increase your top line. Some of them are listed here. Listed this way, they all sound obvious. The problem is usually how, exactly, to proceed in your particular situation. The secret to that sauce is imagination.

>> Find more customers.

>> Sell more of your existing products to your existing customers.

>> Raise your prices. [3]

>> Export — The world is flat now. Tabasco sauce is sold in 132 countries. Why not your products? [4]

>> Add new products to your line — This includes line extensions, new lines or even new business areas.

>> Add intangibles to your offerings — Intangibles like service agreements, applications consulting, financing and so on.

>> Improve your products in ways that matter to customers.

>> Improve your service levels in ways that matter to customers.

>> Co-market with other organizations — Intel Inside?

>> Develop a sales oriented on-line presence.

>> Leverage your brand with collateral products.

>> Build personal relationships. Then continually strengthen them.

>> Next Friday, ask your staff for more ideas.

What About Sustainability?

Those familiar with this blog know that I like Adam Werbach’s idea: “being a Sustainable business means thriving in perpetuity”. [5]  The McIlhenny Company is approaching its 150th anniversary — not a bad start toward perpetuity. The company also has a more familiar sort of Sustainability plan, which other firms may find informative.[6]

Chuck - California Coast 2Thoughtful comments and experience reports are always appreciated.

…  Chuck Harrington (Chuck@JeraSustainableDevelopment.com)

P.S: Contact me when your organization is ready to pursue Sustainability … CH

This blog and associated website (www.JeraSustainableDevelopment.com) are intended as a resource for smaller manufacturers in the pursuit of Sustainability. While editorial focus is on smaller manufacturers, all interested readers are welcome. New blog posts are published on Wednesday evenings.

Note: Tabasco® is a registered trademark.


[1] For those who aren’t familiar with Tabasco sauce, the sauce is made from hot peppers dispersed in vinegar. It must be dispensed slowly by sprinkling on food, lest the sauce overpower the food. It takes a lot of shaking to get a little bit of Tabasco sauce out of the bottle.

[2] The company’s website is worth visiting for background on a nearly 150 years old family owned manufacturing company, as well as for a wealth of marketing ideas. www.tabasco.com

[3] If you really can’t raise your prices even when you need to, your business design may need attention. See Creating and Capturing Value, this blog, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2014/06/25/creating-and-capturing-value/

[4] There is a lot of assistance available for smaller manufacturing firms that want to export. See Sell More in 2014 – Export, http://jerasustainabledevelopment.com/2013/10/10/sell-more-in-2014-export/

[5] Adam Werbach, Strategy for Sustainability, Harvard Business Press (2009), page 9.

[6] For more on the McIlhenny Company’s plan, see: http://www.tabasco.com/mcilhenny-company/sustainability/