Branding lessons from the pug breed

This newsletter shows what branding lessons we can learn from the Pug dog breed — really!

branding lessons

Pug Puppy Dog

Our search for a puppy came down to this: a $1,000 pedigree Pug, or $100 mutt.

Both puppies were sweet-natured 6 month old dogs, in need of house-training. We pretty much knew what we’d get with a Pug — a mellow lap dog with a habit of snoring. On the other hand, the mutt was a wild card. Big? Small? Head case? There was no way to know.

It was time to decide…

The 900% Premium

But while I was considering the dogs, the 900% cost difference between the Pug and the mutt jumped out at me. The fundamentals were the same: 4 legs, lovable, keen sense of smell, pack animal – so what accounted for the price gap?

The answer is brand equity. Because the Pug breed is a powerful, global brand, we would pay a 900% premium.

The Power of the Pug

Now Pugs, to my knowledge, have no marketing budget. How did a little lap dog become a brand powerhouse?

• Longevity. Pugs were introduced to Europe in the 1600s from China, where they had been bred since 400 BCE. The Pug brand has been loved for a very long time all over the world.


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• Third party validation. Pugs are an official breed of the American Kennel Club. The club defines what makes a Pug pug-like, determines who can breed “real” Pugs, and promotes a huge network of dogs shows and other events. So the Pug brand is kept exclusive and policed by a major sector authority.

• Objective content. There is a huge amount of information on Pugs – my Google search brought up 50,000,000 results. Most of this is factual content – both negative and positive — about the breed, not marketing, adding even more heft to this monster brand.

• Unpaid Evangelists. There is a gigantic community that is passionate about Pugs. Without any compensation, they write about Pugs, post pictures, volunteer in organizations. There’s even a Pug’s-eye video of NYC here. The result: even more credibility, and a higher profile.

• On top of all these advantages, the product – Pugs – are cute! And they photograph quite well (see above).

Branding lessons from the Pug

  • Building a brand takes patience
  • Building a brand means building trust
  • Seek 3rd party validation and testimonials
  • Be useful to your audience: offer objective and relevant content
  • Cultivate your community: develop advocates

Don’t have a head start like the Pug brand does — or the patience? Consider adding marketing to the mix to accelerate your brand’s growth.

By the way, what puppy did we end up with? The mutt!

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FACT OF THE MONTH

The real name of Toto the dog in “The Wizard Of Oz” was Terry.

About us

LevinsonBlock is a Brooklyn-based healthcare marketing agency that specializes in mid-sized organizations. Our clients include healthcare providers such as FQHCs, disease foundations, and healthcare technology firms.
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