by: I. M. Andrews
It's winter time, the breed inspection season has come and gone in North America, and along with it branding season.
Branding season for horses--NOT for horse BUSINESSES.
If you have any business or marketing background, or have done any reading on the subject, you have heard of branding in the business context. Let's take a look at what that actually is.
Brands on horses and other livestock in the Old West showed ownership. There was some level of claiming recognition for owning a quality animal, but primarily the point was to keep livestock from being stolen. Branding helped to legally retrieve stolen livestock.
In Europe, brands on horses were not an indication of personal ownership, but rather indicated the horses' affiliations with one of the regional registries.
That idea, which is behind modern-day branding of horses in European-affiliated breeds and some of the other breeds in North America is closer to the concept of business branding. In fact, it IS business branding for the individual horse breed.
So What is Branding Exactly?
It isn't a string of freeze-branded symbols or a set of moose antlers or other breed symbol. Those are likened to a business logo or trademark, but those things aren't brands in the business sense, either.
A brand on a horse signifies everything the breed represents: the quality, history, performance record, origin, and so on. A horse that carries a breed's brand mark ostensibly possesses all of the attributes of the breed, and is theoretically capable of performing to the standard established by that breed association. For example, when you see a horse with a Holsteiner brand (assuming you have familiarity with the mark), you recognize the horse as a Holsteiner. You immediately know a little bit about the horse's lineage, background, and the kinds of activities it might be good at.
That is why some registries require a physical inspection and approval of the individual horse before giving it a brand--the branded horse is a representative of the breed's identity, a walking advertisement. It makes sense for the breed organization to want to control the quality of those advertisements.
Likewise, a brand is the embodiment of all the information connected with a product or service. A brand typically includes a name, logo, and other visual elements and encompasses the set of expectations associated with a product or service which typicaly arise in the minds of people. (reference: wikipedia.org).
Logos and such--like brand marks--are a shorthand symbol for the brand. Those marks are meaningless until the brand is built.
Build Your Brand from the Ground Up:
As Chevy Chase's character, Ty Webb, says in Caddyshack, "Be the ball." Live the brand. Branding is everything you and your business represents. You establish a brand through the quality of your horses, your competitive record, the standard of service you provide to your clients, the manner of your business dealings, trust, your reputation. A brand is a business' identity. Consistency in all of these elements builds a brand.
Paradoxically, I am on the fence about whether to brand horses or not. Maybe just the bunny-hugger in my personality coming out, but I think branding hurts the animal.
For your horse business, definitely, branding shouldn't hurt. It might take a little mental stretching to grasp the concept, but the actual establishment and building of your brand need not be painful.
But one thing is certain: There is no end to the branding season for businesses!