Outside eyes

One of the really cool and very valuable components of the 2013 No More Homeless Pets National Conference in Jacksonville earlier this month was the special sessions that brought non-animal welfare expertise into the mix of essential information about how to take the no-kill movement and our constituent organizations to the next level.

The guest speakers for these sessions are world-class business professionals, and their perspectives on the work of our lifesaving movement are free of preconceptions or “to the choir” assumptions about our audience’s knowledge base.

One of the most energized and exciting of these was the session on branding presented by Oke Mueller, brand strategist at TBWA\Chiat\Day, one of the world’s leading advertising agencies. The agency, under the leadership of Oke’s mentor and animal lover Lee Clow, developed the Apple brand, Energizer Bunny, Gatorade, Nissan, Pepsi, Adidas, and on and on. TBWA, under Lee’s guidance, also developed the NKLA brand and advertising on a pro bono basis. He also helped to refine Best Friends' branding and our Save Them All call to action.

Brands, as Oke illustrated with numerous examples, are more than marketing. A brand encapsulates and represents an organization’s (or an individual’s) style, reputation and personality. A brand represented by a logo is a kind of shorthand that can communicate familiarity, orientation and trust – the Apple logo, the Nike swoosh. Branding can amplify a cause and provide direction, vision and values. Great brands have values and strong beliefs – Patagonia, Apple, Seventh Generation, TOMS Shoes – that dovetail with those of its target audience’s own. Great brands celebrate what they love and can even be iconic and heroic. A great brand lives up to their beliefs in everything they do.

With video examples of various commercial and nonprofit campaigns, Oke brought home with great clarity how effective a brand can be in checking off all the relevant boxes in your audience’s value system and how clean, uncluttered design and consistent message, flavor and feel can establish a brand.

Oke emphasized something that everyone who has had success in rescue knows – that storytelling is one of the strongest tools for branding because humans are hardwired to a basic storytelling structure. The story of how this kitty or that pittie was rescued is the most effective promotion to save that life.

As the no-kill movement and the Save Them All message continues to gain mainstream ground, every animal rescue and welfare organization can benefit from basic and very intuitive insights regarding brand.

As a movement, we are not only branding, or in some cases re-branding, organizations; we are branding shelters and shelter pets, pit bull terriers, community cats and no-kill. We are also re-branding rescue as more than a good cause; we are re-branding rescue as the first stop for all things pet-related so that when the public wants to know about acquiring a pet, or pet training or health or solving problems, the first thought that will come to mind is their trusted local rescue organization.

On a very immediate and practical level, a great brand can build the framework of confidence that allows the individual to invest in the brand. And for us that investment takes the form of adoption, volunteering, donating and involving others, and in some cases making life commitments to the cause.

Oke capped his presentation with a sobering and inspiring perspective. We are all part of a very big story, and it goes like this: Pets are personalities that make our lives better, so we need to make their lives better. Together we have the chance to create a shift in pet culture to stop the killing. Let's make adoption the coolest and only socially acceptable way to get a pet. Let’s Save Them All.

You can order an audio CD of Oke’s presentation, and every other session from the Jacksonville conference by visiting this page and clicking on the link to download an order form. Oke’s CD is #13NMHP-8.

Julie Castle with Sunny the dog
Julie Castle
Best Friends Animal Society