Dogs. They have a way of bringing out the soft, tender side of men, women and kids. And they’re big business. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA), 39% of American households own at least one dog. The APPMA estimates pet owners spent over $ 15 billion on food for their pets in 2006.
If you’re thinking of building a business that targets dog owners, take a lesson from Greg Jarvis of Trick Dog Gallery in Elberta, Michigan, and Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff of Three Dog Bakery in Kansas City, Missouri.
Greg Jarvis, an artist, hit the bullseye when he launched Trick Dog Gallery featuring his whimsical paintings, prints, sculpture and furniture. Nestled in the dunes of Lake Michigan and overlooking Betsie Bay, the first thing you notice driving up to the gallery are the sculptures, cement images and colorful mosaics that make Trick Dog stand out.
Big dogs. Little dogs. Benches. Paintings. Clothing. You name it. Dogs are Greg’s brand, and his customers — tourists searching for fun, relaxation and a good cup of java — are loyal because of that focus. The full service espresso bar and bakery pulls vacationers in, and the dog-centered art entices them to open their wallets to purchase fun gifts, toys and dog products.
You’ll find everything from an $ 18 “Unleash Yourself” messenger bag to an $ 1,800 “Wish You Were Here” painting (50 inches wide x 30 inches high). When we last visited, a new sign hanging on the door caught our attention and made us laugh out loud:
Unattended children will be given an espresso! And a puppy! (No Kidding)
We’re dog-gone impressed with all Greg has created around a brand that represents the essence of his talent and man’s best friend.
Far from Michigan but close in spirit are Dan Dye and Mark Beckloff, owners of Three Dog Bakery. When they launched their business, they weren’t thinking about big branding opportunities. They were simply thinking about their three dogs: Sarah Jean, Dottie, and Gracie. What Dye and Beckloff really wanted was to find dog treats free of additives and artificial ingredients. They couldn’t locate any, so in 1989, they baked their own and opened Three Dog Bakery in Kansas City, Missouri.
Today the company has more than 30 stores in the US and Canada, seven in Japan, and two in South Korea. Along the way, Dye and Beckloff spun off a television cooking show for dogs, a mail-order business, several books, and the non-profit Gracie Foundation for abused, neglected, and homeless dogs.
Three Dog Bakery has been featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show, the Tonight Show, and National Public Radio, and written up in the New York Times, People, and USA Today.
As with any strong brand, the idea for Three Dog Bakery and Trick Dog Gallery started with a unique product concept; a clear target audience; a focused, memorable message; and a strategy to convert strangers into raving fans eager to purchase again and again.
But success didn’t happen overnight. There were tough times. Times they questioned whether they were on the right path.
But, dog-gone it, branding paid off in a big way as they created an unmistakeable brand identity that pulled customers in like a magnet. We think it’s inspiring that they’re having so much fun in the process.
How about you?
* Do you have a business that’s focused on your passion and strengths?
* Do you have a business the speaks to the wants and needs of a particular target audience?
* Do you know the heart and soul of your brand?
If not, it’s dog-gone time to unleash yourself! Focus your brand around 4 key branding concepts — a unique product/service concept; a clear target audience; a focused, memorable message; and a strategy to convert strangers into raving fans — and you will achieve business success.