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!



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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