How many of you (like me), who have been lucky enough to have traveled the back roads of Healdsburg – in this case Westside Road – have seen the MacMurray Ranch off in the distance, and wondered, “What’s it like inside that ranch house?” (Recognizable image of what we’ve seen is many paragraphs and images below in this blog posting.)

Cheryl Lewis of Wine Spectator recently arranged a VIP pass for me, so I could actually have access, during the Sonoma Wine Country Weekend.

As I moved into the house, I was reminded of a time gone by.

And yes… I did get to watch “My Three Sons,” while growing up, so I walked back in time; not only through what the MacMurray family was able to enjoy, but I sorta kinda witnessed a version of this house, growing up with a summer home on Sabattus Lake, in Wales, Maine.

There were so many elements of this house that looked exactly like our summer cottage, that it was instantly nostalgic, tugging at my heart strings. Was I going to enjoy the wine waiting for me in the small yard outside of the house? How could I not? It would have to be really bad wine, and I don’t think there’s much of that coming out of Russian River Valley.

This experience was so “down home” that I was well on my way to loving the brand before even tasting the wine. As I enjoyed photographing this day, it made me reflect on the Four P’s of successful branding.


Naming your brand is key to its success. When starting any new company, if you use a name of something recognizable that already has really positive imaging, you’re well on your way to success. That’s not always possible, because something new – taking from something old – might mean copyright infringement; however, there are instances when something that already exists might be ale to morph from one product (like the actor Fred MacMurray) into an entirely new product (like the wine brand MacMurray Ranch).


Imagine that today you wanted to start a wine company in Russian River Valley, and you’d be featuring – what else – Pinot Noir, that would be grown on acres upon acres of prime real estate.


Now imagine that a company the size and stature of Gallo Wine Company has begun to put all these ducks in a row, and they have the resources to pump into a new brand, its product development, its placement on prime real estate, and the economy of scale within its own company to pump lots of marketing dollars into successful branding efforts.


Again, we’re back to the fact that Gallo has the resources to take money earned from their lower tier brands and pump revenue into promoting their upper tier wines.

5) PERSON – Aha! I’ve added my own fifth “P” to this configuration… Kate MacMurray.

Gallo, the parent company, was brilliant in having Kate MacMurray come to live on the ranch of her childhood. Gallo, in naming and branding this company, reached back into the history of the property which it had purchased, and brought on a namesake… In this case, it’s Fred MacMurray’s daughter, Kate MacMurray.

An ambassador connects all of a company’s dots, and companies that are foolish enough to not take this piece of marketing advice seriously will be quick to learn it, as soon as they retire that person. A corporation can buy a family property, but unless a family member does something absolutely disgraceful, Rule #1 is NEVER take that ambassador away from the company’s image, because that company is now “just another” in a sea of many. There are lots more challenges without the ambassador, than there will be with him or her on board to “represent.”