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.
Why does brand recognition matter?
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 Vet Brand > Logo
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.
Develop stronger brand recognition
Satisfied clients will always be your strongest ally. Whether they’re leaving positive reviews online or deliberately advocating your practice through word-of-mouth, being an industry expert can help streamline the process. The result? More and more pet owners will recognize your practice’s name, and trust you with their pets.
We’ve talked about SEO best practices at length in previous blog posts, and for good reason. Industry experts can help your practice dominate in search engine result pages, boosting your online presence and making your veterinary practice easy to find. Better SEO means better reach, and better reach means stronger brand recognition.
The Power of Personal Branding
Personal branding may seem strange or unimportant to industry veterinarians. Yet in a competitive employment market where online perception can make or break opportunities, how you manage your personal image can be considered more important than ever to grow your reputation and career.
Personal Branding Works Much Like Business Branding
Why do some people choose one product over another, even though both products are virtually the same? The answer is emotion. According to Harvard Business School professor Gerald Zaltman in his book How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market, “95% of our purchase decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind,” where emotion rules. So, people regularly make decisions based on brand perception—what they feel about a company.
Nike Knows the Power of Emotion
Nike’s immortal slogan “Just Do It” has nothing to do with shoes. Rather, the slogan speaks to people in an emotionally encouraging way, effectively saying, “Whatever your goals are, go for it.” Nike’s shoes are simply vehicles by which they can reach their goals, athletic or otherwise. So, buying a pair of Nike shoes represents a larger investment by people into their ultimate vision of themselves, and because of Nike’s encouragement, people like Nike and buy their shoes to the tune of 780 million pairs each year.
For industry veterinarians, personal branding works the same way. Experience, skills, and professional credentials are certainly important, just like Nike would be nowhere if they also didn’t know how to create good-quality shoes. Yet practical considerations typically have far less impact for people than things with emotional resonance. For example:
- What you stand for and value
- How you inspire and elevate others
- Your views on industry developments
- Your connections with colleagues and how you relate to them
- Your willingness or ability to be humorous where appropriate, conversational, and thereby relatable
Don’t Be Afraid to Use Humor and Conversational Language
Some industry veterinarians particularly shy away from humor in the belief that humor is subjective and may not appeal to everyone, and that’s certainly true. Yet all subjects are subjective, and the power of humor and informality to build personal brands within the veterinary field is evidenced by Dr. Jessica Vogelsang (Pawcurious) and Dr. Andy Roark. As veterinary authorities, both regularly use appropriate humor and conversational language to engage people and build their brands as educators, speakers, and media personalities. Indeed, the value of humor is why many business publications recommend adopting appropriate humor to enhance your personal brand.
If humor and informality aren’t your cup of tea (or coffee), they’re certainly not deal-breakers for people. The sheer emotional influence of overall emotional resonance is the key, and why people with strong personal brands are known as influencers.
Personal Branding Is Not Marketing
Branding is the process of looking beyond doctorates, medical degrees, and even the furniture to identify what truly sets you apart as an industry veterinarian. Do you have unique experiences to share as a member of a committee or association? Have you overcome some challenges that can inspire others to overcome their challenges? Do you have networking experience that can help someone uncomfortable with networking? Whatever makes you unique, personal branding is the consideration of how to communicate your uniqueness to others to create an indelible image.
How to Begin Identifying Your Personal Brand
To help develop an idea of your personal brand, ask colleagues, friends, and family members what they think identifies you as unique as an industry veterinarian. Once you gather your information, identify one differentiator that both sets you apart from other industry veterinarians and has emotional resonance. This exercise will help you boil your key brand identifiers down into one or two sentences that will guide you in all your personal branding assets and activities, including:
- Social media images, profiles, and posts
- Website design and blog style
- Speaking engagements and handout material
- Newsletter content and style
- Content contributions to industry websites and publications
Keep Messaging Consistent in Personal Branding
Nike may create new shoes every year, but behind them all, Nike maintains the same “Just Do It” message introduced in 1987, and it’s the same with personal branding. Blogs, social posts, and other individual elements in your branding as a veterinarian will naturally change over time. Yet consistent fundamental messaging helps ensure steady growth in your personal branding, reputation, and career growth.
You have the know-how, and we’ve got the tools. See how a WebDVM website can help showcase industry experts at your practice! With over 25 years of experience, Lifelearn is ready to help individuals and businesses in the animal health industry. Get a consultation for free and find the right answer to expand your veterinary business and boost your vet practice with sophisticated vet marketing strategies.