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(This post was originally published on November 10, 2014, and has been updated to be even more informative.)
Branding has been around for a long time. The word “brand” supposedly comes from the Old Norse word “brandr,” meaning to burn, and referred to the practice of producers burning their mark (brand) onto their products.
Brands became important on a larger scale during the Industrial Revolution, when consumers were used to buying locally made products and were suspicious of “non-local” goods coming into their communities.  Brands were applied to products to help consumers become familiar with them – to let them know they were just as good and trustworthy as the local goods.
This is when consumers began to develop relationships with brands in a social and psychological sense. These relationships are enduring. Products come and go, but brands can rally people. You can probably think of a ton of examples of this in your own experiences without too much effort.
By now you are probably asking, “What does this have to do with us? We’re veterinarians, we don’t make products.” It turns out branding has a lot to do with service-based businesses. In 2005, a study showed that brand cues are even more important for intangible service purchases than for product purchases.
When you think about it, that makes a lot of sense. With a product, you like it or you don’t, and while branding may influence the products you try, you won’t buy something again if you didn’t like it. But with a service, such as healthcare for your pets, it’s a bit trickier. How do you know what a service is like? Will you get the result you want? Will you enjoy the experience?
And that’s where branding comes in.
Your brand is more than a logo. It includes your logo as well as all of your marketing assets – your website, educational materials, stationery, business cards, and even elements of your physical location. It also includes your practice culture, philosophy, and the experience your customers can expect from you every single time. It defines who you hire, how you talk to clients, and how those clients experience your services. And yes, it defines your practice marketing, including your ads, your blog, and how you engage on social media. It answers the question, “Why should we choose you over your competition?”
The great news is, you don’t have to spend buckets of money to establish your brand – you just have to know your purpose, what you care about, and why it matters. All of this will translate to your brand – and how you want to be known in the industry.
Consider what makes your practice unique from the competition. Are you a cat-only clinic? Do you take a uniquely holistic approach? Are you especially warm and welcoming?  Whatever makes you unique, consider what your practice stands for and how your branding can communicate that.
When your brand resonates with people, they feel they can connect with you on an emotional level. They will be more likely to choose you over your competition, more likely to stay with you over time, and more likely to recommend you to their friends, family, and the online world. In a word, your brand can evoke loyalty.

Further blog posts on branding:

Find out how LifeLearn WebDVM can help you bring your practice branding together.

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