Label Conscious: Dave Ficeli, MBA’99

From the Spring 2010 edition of Vanderbilt Business

Dave Ficeli
Dave Ficeli

If you shop for wine or spirits at your local supermarket or big box store, you very well may come across the handiwork of Dave Ficeli, MBA’99, in the near future. His Denver-based company, PL360 Beverage Partners, is focused on building both its own premium alcohol brands and premium, private-label brands owned by the top 60 retail chains in the country.

Ficeli, who serves as CEO and Vice President of Marketing, and business partner Robert Falvo have developed a distinctive reverse-sell model, which begins with retailer demand instead of pushing the products themselves. They first create a brand strategy with the retailer’s input and then work backwards, partnering with others to supply the alcohol and design the labels to fit that particular strategy. As reflected in the company’s name, the idea is to take a 360-degree approach to the marketplace.

“It’s not just about pretty labels. We look at every aspect of a consumer’s needs and wants—beyond the demographics and scan data,” Ficeli explains. “We try to connect with very specific consumer groups in a meaningful, emotive way.”

As much as he enjoys working in the wine and spirits industry, Ficeli is quick to dispel the romantic notions most people might associate with it. “The business I know is not a walk through the vineyard. It’s a street fight,” he says. “I’m attracted to it because it brings creativity, analytics and strategy together with execution and gut feeling. You’ve got to make a lot of decisions with limited information—stuff you learn in business school.”

As for his own B-school experience, Ficeli acknowledges that he would not be enjoying his current success were it not for the support he has received from former classmates and professors. “I can honestly tell you,” he says, “outside of getting married and having a child, enrolling at Owen is the best decision I’ve ever made.”

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