Marketing In the World of Horses | Part I

The following article appeared in Volume 11 Issue 2 of Horse & Country Magazine in September 2004.

By Barbara Daley

This three part series will explore the elements of marketing and how it applies to the business of horses. This first part explores the fundamental element of the marketing plan, the concept of brand.

What’s in a brand?

As horse enthusiasts, when we hear the word ‘brand’ we often think of the age old tradition of branding a horse with a mark or insignia. This exercise was originally done to identify livestock and dates back hundreds, perhaps even thousands of years.

In this day and age the term brand has evolved far beyond the barns and pastures of the breeder, and is now found in magazines, televisions, websites and apparel.

So what does brand mean exactly?

In one word: IDENTITY.

A brand is the way we identify a product, a company, or even a concept. Most often this is achieved with a logo or symbol. One example might include that little red tag on the back of your jeans, it may be the golden arches that you consider when you have a hankering for a hamburger, or it might be something as simple as the maple leaf on a Canadian flag.

Let’s look at a brand that is close to the hearts of many Canadian equestrians, especially during an Olympic year. It’s those five linking rings, a symbol adopted by the International Olympic Committee in 1914. Since that time, millions of people have come to know that it represents a series of sports events that are held every four years by a host nation, with participation by select athletes from all over the world. Beyond that, it has come to represent excellence - excellence in both performance and spirit. In becoming a universal concept, it also serves to motivate and inspire. It instills a sense of pride. We have come to relate to it on an emotional level.

Not all brands are so broad. Some are rather practical. The brand on your toothpaste helps you to identify it at a glance so that your shopping experience is more efficient. Just the same, it too takes on a concept. You think of it as a reliable product that can be counted on to clean your teeth. This translates to the emotions of comfort and ease.

How does the concept of brand apply to the modern horseman?

Whether your affinity to horses is a pastime or a business, the use of brand identity will be meaningful to you. For the breeder of horses, it’s a way to help clients understand what your breeding program offers. For the operator of a show barn, it helps clients recognize your presence at the show venues and at home. Whether you belong to a Pony Club chapter, or you like to wear certain colours riding the cross country phase at a horse trials, you have a brand identity.

Understanding the specifics elements of that brand identity and knowing how you can strengthen them is what marketing is all about. Using the different mediums appropriately is how this is achieved, whether it’s a matching cooler and tack box or a full colour ad along side a press release in a national magazine.

Is a brand a brand?

So let’s take this exploration of the brand full circle and consider once again the hot brand on the flank of your horse. How does this ancient practice relate to this seemingly modern concept? In many ways it is the earliest and truest form of brand identity, and it is just as strong and relevant in today’s larger arena of marketing. In the case of a warmblood breed, a quick glance at this simple symbol will convey that there are generations of selective breeding that went into the horse. One will recognize that this horse will have the stuff of past Olympians. They can have confidence that this horse’s earlier generation had to meet very high standards to be eligible to breed. They will know the breeder’s intent was to produce excellence in conformation, ability and temperament and that it would be suitable for performance sport.

To answer the question…

What’s in a brand?

A brand offers instant recognition, it speaks to a standard, it alludes to a history, and it conveys an expertise.

In Part II of this series we will explore how we take this concept of brand and the specific ways in which we can apply it to business of horses.

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