Brand personalization is more than a clever marketing strategy, or an attempt through slogans, jingles and mascots to connect with consumers on an intimate level. Those tactics, with their manufactured stories and legends or myths, may increase sales – great brands often have famed icons, albeit false figures like rugged cowboys or resolute deliverymen – but nothing can match the authenticity of a real-life entrepreneur: A man or woman whose passion for excellence is so powerful, it resonates with people on an emotional level and represents the triumph of transparency over anonymous commercialism. Nowhere is that point more relevant than among the nearly 73 million homes, in which there is a family pet.
Among these men and women, husbands and wives, and children — among the 38.9 million Americans who have a beautiful cat or kitten at their side, or among the 46.3 million individuals who have a beloved dog at their feet, sincerity and love are the universal themes, which unite this diverse array of all ages, nationalities, customs, cultures and traditions. And, nowhere is this issue more personal and heartfelt than with a leader like Dave Ratner, Founder and President of Dave's Pet Food, an independent retailer and maker of naturally healthy pet food for cats and dogs.
Sharing a Story of Individualism and Sincerity
Dave's story is an inspiring one, replete with information about the origins of his business, his volunteerism within his community (in Western Massachusetts) and a shared appreciation – the bond every pet owner feels in their heart – for the four-legged companions, who are with us in sickness and in health; the creatures, who are the first ones to leap into our arms and the last to say goodbye (with a kiss, lick or meow), the ones who offer us unconditional love.
To be a member of this fraternity of feline or canine affection is a blessing, as well as a summons to integrity and guidance. In other words, personalization is everything; it defines a company's relationship with consumers, the values a business cherishes and the communication everyone expects to receive. I write these words as a pet owner, as someone who has an energetic and loyal beagle (Manny) who is in every photo I carry in my pocket: The picture of my wedding, the arrival of my daughter, and the celebration of every birthday, holiday and milestone — every wonderful day, where he is with us (and always on patrol, of course).
Communicate the Principles of Personalization
The lesson I take from Dave, which every executive can emulate, is simple: Tell people who you are and what you believe; express the ideals responsible for your professional success, while communicating – through every medium, by every opportunity – the knowledge you possess and the humility you shall never abandon. For example: Dave is upfront that he is not a pet nutritionist – again, he does not seek to disguise his credentials or enhance his ego – and thus, he welcomes feedback from consumers and shares links to and material about resources with an emphasis on pet health.
The rule to fellow business owners, in any industry, is that communication is essential and character is non-negotiable. Meaning: Dave has an unyielding – and admirable – belief in the quality of his products, the direction of his company and the importance of interacting with retailers and consumers alike. Despite his schedule, he reserves the time to correspond with his customers — to learn from them, and to thank them for their support.
Simply stated, no business owner should be too busy or self-absorbed to express gratitude to a consumer, particularly one who sends a note of appreciation or has a query about where he or she can purchase a company's product. These individuals deserve respect and attention, for which Dave – and other dedicated entrepreneurs – always reciprocate in kind.
Be of and in the Community: Remember the Roots of Your Success
And finally, great companies are also great ambassadors of their respective communities; they are both in and of the area they call home, where a storefront is the genesis of a national brand and a source of festivity among fellow citizens. For Dave, his presence in Western Massachusetts – including his charitable work and involvement in various business councils – is a reminder that growth does not come at the expense of eternal values and the small-town charms of the people who know you.
The point is to treat your business as an integral part of the community, not as a mailing address divorced from the day-to-day activities of civic life. If Dave's success teaches us anything – and it educates us about many things – it is this: Never let ego supplant humility, and never succumb to the temptations of power at the expense of the people who constitute a community.
With awareness of these truths, and modesty and gratefulness towards your consumers, any company can build a foundation of virtue and prosperity. Dave Ratner is one such leader, who is the architect of a blueprint for growth and goodness.
This guest post is from Lewis Fein. He is a media relations consultant, based in Los Angeles, with extensive experience involving consumer goods, food, technology, hospitality and various entrepreneurial endeavors. He can be reached at [email protected].