Rebranding and a relaunch bring the successful line into the 21st century.
By Michael Ventre
Sometimes the rebranding of a product line for dogs, cats and small animals is akin to applying lipstick to a pig. In the case of Vet’s Best, it was more like putting lipstick on something that was already attractive in order to make it ravishing.
That was the unique challenge presented to the team at The Bramton Company. It acquired Vet’s Best in August of 2008, and although it knew it had a trusted brand on its hands brimming with veterinary integrity, it was clearly time for a new look.
“One of the things that really attracted us to the brand was the strong and loyal following it had pre-acquisition,” noted Roger Morgan, president and CEO of Dallas-based Bramton, which relaunched Vet’s Best this past fall. “The brand has been around a long time, and it had a high quality product line. Where we felt there was tremendous potential was in modernizing and updating the packaging, and refreshing it with a complete brand launch.”
Of course, tamper with the brand and you may tamper with success. Vet’s Best was developed by Dr. Dawn Curie Thomas in the 1980s for use in her own practice. Since then it has amassed a dedicated and knowledgeable fan base, one that demands the same care, attention to detail and quality of ingredients for pet products that it expects in natural-care products for humans.
Although Bramton is a seasoned pro–the company has been in the pet product business for more than 30 years, and also boasts two other brands, Simple Solution and Bags on Board--a rebranding is still a touchy endeavor when the original brand is already revered.
AT A GLANCE
Location: Dallas, Texas
Owner: The Bramton Company
Years in Business: Established in 1989
Areas of distribution: U.S. & Canada
Annual Revenues: Undisclosed*
Brand motto: Pet health is nurtured from the inside out, and from the outside in
Product categories: Dog, Cat and Small Animal
Product Lines: Topicals, shampoos, supplements and ear & dental for dogs; topicals, shampoos and supplements for cats; waterless shampoo for small animals
*Dunn & Bradstreet reports The Bramton Company’s parent company, NCH Corp., has an estimated 8500 employees and annual revenues of $650-750 million*
“I can tell you this wasn’t without risk,” Morgan said. “There was definitely risk involved. But the old adage is ‘High risk, high reward.’
Sometimes you make tweaks in packaging, sometimes you make incremental changes. This was revolutionary packaging.
“We felt this was an opportunity to modernize and update the brand. And part of that is the willingness to take that risk,” he added.
The results, said Dan Archetti, national sales manager, have been staggeringly positive. “The response has been overwhelming to both the packaging and the general relaunch overall,” he said. “From A to Z, I think we executed it flawlessly. I think it shows an acceptance by our customers.”
Vet’s Best is a system of products that promotes both internal and external wellness, from skin care to joint health. The line includes remedies for hot spot dry skin relief for dogs, waterless baths and shampoos for cats, topical baths for small animals, and much more.
The rebranded image itself is comforting: The words “Vet’s Best,” with a green cross in the middle, and a perky pooch above. The new look is modern enough to compete in a crowded category, but it also promises the kind of comfort and reassurance you might get from an old country doctor who still makes house calls.
Of course, that look did not come about without a great deal of thought.
“We learned that there was a lot of clutter in the category,” said Nevin Grinnell, senior vice president of marketing for Bramton. “Many consumers are lost in the category. We wanted to reflect what the brand stood for: a happy, healthy pet.”
Grinnell said the process took about six months. It involved using focus groups to determine how consumers felt about roughly 20 possible packaging concepts. That 20 were whittled down to six, then down to two very different looks.
“We didn’t want a Frankenstein design of the two finalists, but one pure design,” Grinnell said. “We chose this one because we felt it would, as I like to say, ‘hunt better.’ It has better impact, and better speaks to the brand.”
The final design, Grinnell said, was a deft combination of the natural aspect and the science behind the product.
Then there was the matter of introducing it to the retail community.
“I think a lot of retailers love the new design,” Grinnell said. “There were the majors like Petco and Petsmart, but also a lot of independents. Education was the key.”
During the relaunch, Bramton arranged to have in-store merchandising units, with baskets hanging off the shelves to attract eyes. There was also a direct-mail campaign, ads in consumer and trade magazines, and lots of web-based information, including a solution wheel on the company’s website that helps consumers find the appropriate products for their pets’ needs.
In addition, the Bramton sales team went out in force to make sure the new brand received maximum saturation.
“We need to let the consumer and the retailer know that these products came from almost 28 years of experience, not just being a veterinarian but owning a hospital with four veterinarians,” said Tony Lewis, Vet’s Best brand manager. “Dr. Dawn used the products for her own prescriptions.
“That back story is very important, especially to the consumer,” he continued. “We incorporated that into our label, it’s on our website and they can read the history of our products. When they see our full lineup and the back-story, they realize not only can they buy individual products, but we sell them in a system format. When retailers saw we had all this backup material to help them sell, they could be comfortable telling the customer how the product works.”
Lewis said that because Vet’s Best offers a line that answers most--if not all--of consumers’ needs, it simplifies the process for customers and retailers.
“We make it a point to educate the retailer and provide them with the information they can give to the consumer,” Lewis said. “They’re blown away. They say they’ve never seen such a comprehensive introduction, and the tools to bring the product in. Many have dropped the few little supplement companies they have. Some of them say, ‘Well, this is comprehensive. This is what I’m looking for. This is the only one I’ll carry.’” <HOME>
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