Do you have a favorite drink at Starbucks? Sometimes I feel a stress release just walking in, knowing I’m going to have a nice cup of coffee. I know what I’m getting, I know the taste I’m looking for, and Starbucks creates the experience for me every time I take a sip of their specialty coffee. I rarely have a bad experience with Starbucks.
Just the same, I’ll be honest, I drink a fair amount of McDonald’s coffee when I’m out on the road, their coffee is also very repeatable, it tastes the same wherever I go. This is especially helpful on road trips where McDonald’s are the main alternative to gas station coffee. It’s always a wild card getting coffee at gas stations, I’m always a little worried its going to be super bitter or acidic, or worse, burnt, sitting on the burner too long. I want to enjoy my coffee so when I find what’s working, I’m more likely to keep coming back.
Starbucks and McDonald’s have incredible brands, they are so well known. You can tell it’s a McDonald’s commercial on TV so easily, you can walk into any Starbucks and while they’re all a little different in style, they all feel like Starbucks. They all give that unique feeling you get when you walk in.
That feeling you expect and then those expectations being met are the sign of a good brand.
What is branding?
Branding is a little abstract as a concept, so let me give you the quick and dirty on what a brand is. Initially, it helps to think of the branding elements when you think about a brand, things like brand colors, fonts, logos, even the personality in the copy—or writing—on the website and in social media. Really though, a brand is the feeling you get when you interact with a business. It’s the perception you have of the business, their products, their customer service, who they are as a business.
Good brands will give you the same feeling with every interaction. They have a flow, it all works together, so that if a brand were a person you’d feel like you were working with the same person, the same personality in each interaction. In essence you can trust the feeling you get from the brand and that’s where things get interesting…consistently getting that feeling, means you can trust you’ll get that feeling working with that brand. Trusting that feeling translates to trusting the business and its products.
Why branding is important for your dog breeding business
I’m not sure if you’re feeling it, but I’m feeling it. The market is shifting, not just in dog breeding, but the whole world economy. Things don’t feel as reliable as they once were. They feel a little unpredictable and I see more and more people who are out of sorts, looking to feel secure, looking for something they can trust and rely on.
A brand helps you create this feeling for your buyers, it helps you build trust with them. Something that is especially important these days in this economy.
You know that friend that you can always call, they’ll always listen, give you great advice, and be supportive? In essence they are consistent in their interactions with you, they feel like the same person every time you speak with them. Their reactions are so reliable that even when they aren’t with you, you can see something at the store and know that they’d love it or you can see a funny meme and send it to them, knowing they’ll enjoy it. That consistency makes you trust them because you know what to expect.
This is why when you watch those murder shows on tv the motive is so important. Have you ever noticed how when the husband kills the wife you don’t really get paranoid, the motive makes you trust that you probably wouldn’t be next…yet, what about those random murders where some woman was picking up milk at the grocery store and then never comes home. She was randomly selected by the killer and there was no way of anticipating the attack. It makes you feel a little uneasy because you can’t rule out that you could be the next victim as easily. With Bill, I figure if I keep making him dinner there’s a lot less chance I’ll be on his hit list, so I don’t worry about him murdering me.
In essence the brand of the random killer is inconsistent, so that’s why it can’t be trusted.
On a side note, you ever notice how it’s easier to be friends with people when you only see them in one part of your life? Like people at work, you don’t usually have negative interactions with them because you’re both consistent in the venue you interact. Yet, when you get to know someone better, you start to see all their sides, not that they’re bad, but if you look closely enough most people are hypocrites, believing contrasting ideas simultaneously, in at least a few areas of their life. The more ways you know someone, the more opportunities for complication in the relationship. That’s why your significant other is probably the most complicated—yet rewarding—relationship you have. They’re your person, you’re roommates, you share a bathroom, you share a bed, you share a bank account, you share a vehicle or two, you share work experiences and home experiences, families and friends together. Essentially, statistically, there are just a lot more opportunities for complications there. Anyways, if you feel like the “brand” of your significant other is a little complicated, that’s probably why.
This is why consistent brands build trust. You need trust for people to buy. One of the biggest concerns buyers have when buying from a breeder is that they’ll be scammed or that they’ll be supporting a puppy mill. We can use our brand to help quell those fears.
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A brand will help Attract Your Ideal Puppy Buyer
You know how you’re not supposed to judge a book by the cover, but we all do? That’s kinda how your brand works with your ideal puppy buyers. You can use your brand to attract your ideal puppy buyer.
Think of stores that you saw the logo and even if you didn’t exactly know what was inside, you wanted to check the place out. I think of the Cheesecake Factory. I love me some cheesecake, but the factory part got me interested, I wanted to know more. It was big and bold and I thought, gosh, I bet they have some really good cheesecake. Same with Caribou Coffee. I mean, it was a fun brand color scheme, and while they were out in the wild, they were also refined and drinking coffee. The lodge-like feeling I got with wood made it feel warm and inviting. I wanted to know more, I wanted to try their coffee.
As buyers, not only do we want to feel trust with a brand before interacting with them, but we also feel like we want to fit in there.
You’ll notice that Caribou Coffee often sprung up around colleges first, they were playful in a way that Starbucks isn’t. You don’t see a whole bunch of people in dress suits walking into Caribou Coffee in the same way that there is at Starbucks, just the same, I wouldn’t dream of going to Starbucks in pajamas, but I recall seeing some similar attire at Caribou Coffee. They’re different, different businesses with different brands: they have the same product, but different ideal customers.
As a college student I felt like I belonged at Caribou Coffee, I didn’t get any weird looks from study buddies when I suggested we study there, we all aligned with the brand.
When you design your brand, you want to design it around and for your ideal puppy buyer. What do they want to feel when they have your dogs? If they want calm and cute, then you probably don’t want to opt for black and red, bold fonts and bold words. It wouldn’t give the feeling your ideal puppy buyer is seeking, so you would have a hard time attracting the ideal puppy buyer because when they interacted with your brand they would feel it was too much, too crazy, to busy, and too much chaos for them. You’d do better building a brand with softer colors, cuter simple fonts. Things that align with the dogs you’re creating and the feeling your buyers are looking for.
Your brand speaks about what you produce
Lastly, you want to have your brand speak to what you produce. Using the example of the black and red colors with the bold fonts and words, you may find that attracts your ideal puppy buyer, the people you want to work with, but what happens when the dogs you produce are not what they’re looking for?
Say with my bird dogs I could design my whole brand around family dogs who hunt, having all the calm and fun colors that my ideal puppy buyers really relate with. I could really screw things up if I didn’t have dogs who lived up to that desire. If I had dogs that were strict field trial dogs with so much energy that if you didn’t take them out to engage their drives intensely all the time then they would leak that drive out in the most obnoxious way. If I didn’t select a temperament that went well with kids, then my brand would not align with my product.
Nothing ruins trust with people and damages your brand like a misalignment of brand and product.
Could you imagine if Starbucks had the brand it has, but every time I got a coffee it tasted different? If sometimes the cup was 2/3 oat milk and sometimes 1/3? What if the coffee tasted different at every McDonald’s? I wouldn’t go there just because they had the same logo.
In fairness, I get a stomach ache after every burger I have at McDonald’s, it is consistent though, so I consistently don’t interact with their burgers no matter what McDonald’s I’m at. I feel I can trust their “I’m lovin’ it” with their coffee, but not with their burgers.
You’ll also see brands that are inconsistent with their products and might catch yourself using the brand’s slogan in satire, pointing out the inconsistency. We have this local dealership in my town and on all their radio ads they say, “No one beats one of our deals. Nobody.” Yet, it is a lie. They consistently have the worst deals and highest prices. For a purchase as large as a vehicle, it’s a no-brainer to buy the vehicle somewhere else. I don’t trust them because of that, I feel like they’re lying from the start. On the other hand, take Discount Tire, by definition they have to have good prices, it’s in their name. I generally check, but they consistently have great prices on tires and they have excellent customer service that is repeatable. It makes it an easy choice to go there for tires, they simply do what they say they do and I trust it. Side note, I did find out they have 3 employees per state whose only job is check prices of all competitors in that state to make sure their prices are the best. You have to give them credit for their dedication to their brand.
This is why it’s so important to know what you are breeding, know what your dogs are really like, continue that consistency (or change it if you don’t like what you’re producing), so that you can make the perfect puppies for your ideal puppy buyers. Then build your brand around giving your buyers the feeling they want when they buy one of your dogs. That’s the key to a good brand.
As you may have got an inkling, I LOVE branding. That’s why I’m so excited that this month’s masterclass inside the Dog Breeder Society is all about designing your brand and aligning it with your ideal puppy buyer. Everything from fonts, to colors, to logos, to how you write the words on your website and social media. It’s full of examples both in the business world and through fictitious dog breeding programs.