Marketing In the World of Horses | Part II

The following article appeared in Volume 11 Issue 3 of Horse & Country Magazine in October 2004.

By Barbara Daley

This is the second of a three part series that explores the elements of marketing and how they are applied to the business of horses. This part takes the concept of brand and looks at specific ways it can be used.

What’s in a brand?

In the first part of this series, we answered the question: What’s in a brand? We found that a brand offers instant recognition, it speaks to a standard, it alludes to a history, and it conveys an expertise. The challenge of marketing is to take this concept and put it into practice. The first step is to ensure the brand you develop truly captures the essence of what you offer.

Capturing the essence.

Surely creating a name and logo for a company is a straight forward exercise. Pick a name, choose a colour, put it together with a picture and you’re done. Right? Wrong!

The image you create to market your business should reflect the product or service that you are offering to your customer. If your emphasis is on quality and care, your brand should reflect that. If you offer a cost effective solution, this can be shown too. If you pride yourself on being warm and approachable, it’s important that you build this into your message. Let’s take a look at a few fictional examples to see what I mean.

In our first example, we have a tack shop that offers a large selection of items for many different equestrian disciplines. They are noted for competitive pricing, bringing in popular items on a timely basis and having a wide variety of stock supported by ample inventory. They pride themselves in offering a very high level of customer service and product knowledge. For this business, it is important that the name they choose can be easily recognized and appeals to all of their customers. While Lazy J, might be nice because it was the name of Uncle Jack’s ranch, it would not work well as the name of this tack shop. First of all, the western theme would alienate shoppers seeking out tack for racing or English disciplines. Secondly, those not familiar with western branding, might just be left with the impression that the ‘lazy’ is somehow reflective of the level of service.

In our second example we have a family run business that specializes in breeding warmblood horses. This is a legacy that is in the third generation, and since they immigrated to Canada twelve years ago, it is now being passed onto the fourth. When they emigrated from their home in Europe, they brought with them a small but significant herd of mares that they bred to only the finest, approved warmblood stallions. The horses they produce are of a world class quality and over the years their herd has expanded to a great number. While this family likes to celebrate their Canadian citizenship, they recognize it would be a mistake not to acknowledge their heritage and the expertise that is so closely linked to it. To achieve this they decided to balance each element of their brand very carefully: the name they chose for their business is universal in theme; the graphical motif that goes with it is reflective of their home country; the style and language of their materials appeals to the Canadian consumer.

Our third and final example brings us to the gates of a children’s summer camp. Like many great camps, this camp offers, a wide variety of activities including swimming, hiking, canoeing, and games. It is unique in that it also offers horseback riding. The emphasis of their riding program is on the care of the horse and includes the basics of grooming, nutrition and health. By the end of the summer program, each child should know how to tack and untack their own horse and will have been our on several rides. While there is a variety of good fitting tack to choose from, less emphasis is place on discipline specific skills and more on the basics of riding in a safe and enjoyable environment. To successfully communicate this to the public, the summer camp has decided to choose a name and logo that is fun and spirited while conveying a sense of responsibility.

Putting the brand into action.

So if step one is developing a brand that reflects what your business offers, step two is deciding how you are going to use that brand - how you will market your business.

Today, more than ever, we have a fantastic array of marketing choices available to us. Traditional choices such as a sign on your door or fencepost, a logo for your letterhead and business cards or an advertisement in a magazine have been in use for many years. Add to that the more recent use of video and web, and the choices start to seem quite extensive. While it may seem tempting to sign up for one of each, especially if you can get it at a good price, it is rarely a good idea. When marketing without a strategy, you run the risk of missing your target market entirely, or worse yet, conveying the wrong message.

Let’s go back to our earlier examples to see how each of these three businesses might successfully market their businesses.

In the case of our tack shop, remember that much of their business is based on high volume and low cost. They need their message to get out to a large number of customers in a consistent and cost effective way. One of their marketing vehicles might include a fairly extensive website. If done well, the design of this site would leave you with the same feeling you get when shopping in their store. It is easy to navigate, there are many products to choose from, the prices and descriptions are clearly indicated, and it is updated quite regularly. New and innovative products would be featured on the home page. Phone numbers and directions would be clearly indicated.

The marketing needs for the family run breeding farm might be done somewhat differently. Since they are marketing to buyers all across North America, they will find the need for video to be quite important to them. Their goal is to reflect several decades of breeding expertise coupled with exceptional pedigrees. This high standard in producing horses would also need to be met in the production of the video. From the presentation and turnout of the horses, to the quality of the editing, to the packaging of the video itself, every attention to detail would be met.

Finally, the kid’s summer camp cannot just thrive on word of mouth alone. They too will need to market themselves. This might be achieved by taking out an ad in the camp edition of an equestrian magazine for adults. They might do the same for a magazine that targets just kids. Perhaps they would participate in some of their community’s school activities. A targeted mailing to previous clients would work well too.

Different mediums; same message.

Over time, a truly great brand will achieve instant recognition. This is a true sign of success. This success in consumer awareness is translated to success as a business.

The best way to ensure this happens is to be consistent with all the mediums you choose to market your business. That’s why it is so important to take the time to select the elements of your brand, and select them well, right from the start. The name, the image, the colour, that’s only the beginning. The logo placement, the writing style, even the font style are subtle yet important choices. Consistency in your sign, your letterhead, ads, websites, posters – it’s consistency that allows your customer the opportunity to understand what your business truly offers.

In Part III of this series we will take a look at some of the common pitfalls people make in their marketing efforts and how to guard against them. It will touch on copyright, trademarks, photo editing, video quality, and design. A do it yourself approach versus using a professional will also be explored, with a view to finding the right solution within ones budget.

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