There's just something special about small town businesses. It takes a special kind of advertising and promotion to honor the stories those local businesses tell. Animals, Inc. is an example of one of those special local brands that does so much right, and is our next featured client in our Best of Advertising Strategies series. Here's how the Central Minnesota-based veterinary clinic fostered growth and community presence with the help of Leighton Broadcasting.
Company Value & Growth
Animals, Inc. began as a stand alone practice with the Watkins, MN location- which has been a mixed animals clinic, 30 years strong. Over time, it’s really seen a transition from primary agriculture care (dairy, sheep, swine) with some companion animals and horses to what it is now: still significant agriculture-based clientele, but the majority of services are for small animals and pets.
Dr. Carl Larson is one of Animals, Inc.'s primary DVM, and he talked about expanding the brand to include four locations across Central Minnesota. "We started getting the impression that our clinic was being utilized by more than locals, and people were willing to drive a further distance to visit us. We thought maybe our services were more economical – but then we realized the value our brand has, service wise. We offer our own emergency service – meaning, after 5:00pm we don’t tell clients in a time of emergency to take their animals elsewhere. We noticed trends like that. We also noticed a gradual decrease in our ag appointments each year," he said.
In 2010, Dr. Larson and the team at Watkins Veterinary began focusing on growth. He said, "We looked at opportunities in smaller, nearby communities with a local vet who might be retiring. In 2010, we acquired the Kimball vet clinic. It was then we began to feel the synergy of growth just by gaining another location. We ran those two locations under one brand but didn’t alter or focus on rebranding or advertising at that time. After three or four years, the talent we had under our roofs were ready for another challenge. We looked at Maple Lake – a bigger community that didn’t have a very active vet practice – and its proximity to the west metro, where a lot of our clients were pulling from."
Animals, Inc. as a Brand
Dr. Larson continued, "Maple Lake was our first startup – and that’s the point we decided we needed to do some branding – we needed a brand name. It was a mouthful to say Watkins-Kimball-Maple Lake Vet Clinics! We chose the name Animals, Inc. Veterinary and began our partnership with Leighton Broadcasting. We wanted to see what advertising could do for us. We knew we were moving closer to the direction of where our clients were coming from – that west metro area – so we assumed Maple Lake would be successful. What we didn’t want to happen was for either Kimball or Watkins to lose customers, so we tapped into a new market in St. Cloud using radio as our medium."
Animals, Inc. started branding by developing a tagline that encompassed what they do as mixed animal vets. Watkins is pets and agriculture plus horses, Kimball is pets, and both Maple Lake and Litchfield are primarily pets but service a small supply of agriculture customers. How could the company tell those stories with a single tagline? And, how could it be unique and memorable, two things that are important for radio branding? By focusing on the pillars of the Animals, Inc. brand:
- They handle their own emergencies - continuity of care
- Four locations - deep, wide Central Minnesota network
- Serve both companion and agriculture customers
From there, Dr. Larson and his team worked out a tagline that speaks to those pillars, is memorable, and all encompassing.
Large and Small We Treat Them All - We want your animal as healthy as a horse but if they're sick as a dog, we'll work until the cows come home to get them purring like a kitten again!
Here is that tagline with some audio context:
Top of Mind Awareness
Brand recognition has been huge for Animals, Inc - in terms of both radio advertising and the new unified logo.
Dr. Larson added, "We just opened Litchfield’s location and had a grand reopening that coincided with the town’s festival – Litchfield Watercade in early July. Leighton Broadcasting helped us host a live remote that weekend. It served a few purposes – one, it promoted our brand in a new location and two, it enforced our commitment to our communities. We promoted Watercade and the town of Litchfield as a small business proud to be part of the community. Our branding package allows us to customize our messaging based on what’s going on in our business and communities. In June we can thank Ag customers as part of June Dairy Month. We can promote Kimball Days and Kraut ‘n’ Wurst Days in Watkins. Maple Lake is big on St. Patrick’s Day so we support that."
He said, "it’s been a point of pride for our employees to go all over Central Minnesota and have people say they’re familiar with our vet practice. I think it’s also a point of pride for our clients to know they’re part of Animals, Inc. too.”
Best Advertising Strategy
What does the future of Animals, Inc and Leighton Broadcasting look like?
Dr. Larson admitted, “there are days when we can’t get it all done, and we think, why are we spending money on advertising when we can’t even keep up? Then we remember that as a service provider-based business, there’s more to it. It’s not about advertising when business is slow, or seeking growth only. Top of mind awareness is our initiative. We want to establish Animals, Inc. as a familiar resource and community brand when people need our services. Radio advertising is going to reach more people than anything else and I fully intend on continuing to do it."