Branding the Veterinary Practice

ArticleLast Updated May 20155 min readPeer Reviewed

In the cattle industry, animals are marked with a hot branding iron to set groups apart. Similarly, every company, product, and service wants to distinguish themselves, so they adopt a unique symbol, logo, or catchy jingle. For example, Apple wrote, “It‘s mini in a massive way” to promote the Mac Mini in 2014 and early 2015.1

Veterinary practices, especially new ones, may often spend considerable time selecting a name that will clearly identify them. Some practices also include taglines or images. A check of veterinary websites revealed these taglines:

  • Caring for pets…and their people, too2

  • Your pet’s health is our passion3

  • Keeping pets healthy for over 100 years4

  • We cater to cats!5

  • For people whose pets are part of the family6

  • Discover what we can do for YOU and YOUR PET7

  • Your best friend deserves the best care8

  • Cat care by cat people.9

Ark Animal Hospital of San Diego uses an image of an ark overflowing with animals10 to distinguish itself. Clients can easily associate the distinctive image with the practice.

Many practices also display their certification by the American Association of Feline Practices (AAFP) or the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) to further set themselves apart.

Related Article: Case Study: Why is the Mayo Clinic So Successful?

Mission & Vision

There is more to effective practice branding than a catchy slogan or eye-catching image. Before considering the elements that will identify your practice, you must first define your vision and mission—what is called in the corporate world your “value proposition.”

The mission statement concentrates on the present; the vision statement focuses on the future and can be a source of inspiration and motivation.

The mission statement provides direction for the practice by defining its clients, processes, and desired performance levels. The vision statement outlines the long-term perception and future goals. The mission statement concentrates on the present; the vision statement focuses on the future and can be a source of inspiration and motivation.11

The following are examples of mission and vision statements:

  • Our mission is to provide excellent medical care for dogs and cats in an atmosphere where patients and clients are cared for genuinely and compassionately.11,12

  • Our vision is for our practice to succeed through client satisfaction, personal and professional enrichment, and reinvestment into the practice and community.11,13

Your brand, on the other hand, is who you are, how you want to be known, what you promise your clients, and what kind of experience your clients can expect. It is your “business system,” according to blogger David Kincaid,14 and is the same as your culture.15

Defining Your Brand

Look at the products and services in television advertisements and note how the advertiser:

  1. Ascribes uniqueness or added value of the product or service

  2. Uses images and words to communicate that uniqueness.

Related Article: Marketing a New Practice: It Takes More than Advertising

Then, take these steps to develop your practice’s brand:

  • Define your mission and vision: Does your practice provide general medicine? Is it a specialty practice? Do you provide boarding? Grooming? What do you envision in one year, 5 years, 10 years?  

  • Gather your stakeholders: What do you want those who have a vested interest in your practice’s success (eg, owners, team members, clients) to think about your practice?

  • Know yourself: Survey stakeholders for their description of your practice. Is there a central theme? Does it match your mission and vision?

  • Know your competition: What sets you apart from other area practices? Service fees? Scope of services? Hours? Team member experience? Patient care?

  • Engage your right brain: Think of your practice in pictures and images. Look at magazines or do a Google Image search using key words such as compassion, hope, fear, joy, and success. Let the imagery inspire you to illustrate what is unique about your practice. Be sure to choose images that fit your mission and vision.

  • Change the rules: Playing by the same rules as another area practice may be a losing proposition. Be different. For example, do not attempt to match a nearby practice that provides a broad range of services. Instead, promote your practice as a small practice that provides a more caring, personal experience.

  • Know your clients: Use surveys, focus groups, and individual conversations to learn about your clientele and what they want.16

  • Look at other industries: Marty Becker, DVM, says he had a That’s for me moment when he studied the 7-Eleven stores that focus on convenient locations, hours, and one-stop shopping; he then established a practice that was open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.17 How do your goals compare?

  • Create a need: Becker suggested recently that an important future focus of veterinary practices will be to “safeguard pets’ emotional and physical well-being”18 and to decrease patients’ fear during veterinary visits. Look ahead. Research unaddressed client needs to find a niche.

  • Communicate your brand: Once you have chosen your brand, communication is key. Convey your message using names, slogans, colors, images, and taglines that say what you mean (see Need Help With Your Brand?). Marketing consultant Jed Schaible, VMD, MBA, CVPM, invites stakeholders to rate each one and even presents different images to Facebook friends.19 Once a slogan and image have been chosen, use them consistently on all your materials, at your facility, and in conversation.

Branding is important to making your practice known; however, be sure that your brand is not only your name and logo but also what your practice stands for and aspires to achieve.