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  • Writer's pictureTerry Dockery


If you're not a Boomer you might not recognize the lyrics from the theme song of the TV Western series Rawhide. It was a hoot, and you can still see reruns on Saturday mornings.

Those guys were branding cattle, but the process is very similar to branding your business. The cattle (your financial resources) seem to get scattered all over the place, but your job as the "trail boss" (leader) is to gather them into an organized herd (focused marketing plan) and then take them to market to make a profit.

Your brand is your promise to your customers. In Rawhide Clint Eastwood played Rowdy Yates, a passionate and impetuous young cattle drover who always seemed to be on the verge of losing control and getting into trouble. Talk about a brand promise delivered. What else would you expect from a guy named Rowdy, for goodness sake? I bet his grade school days were filled with lots of trips to the principal's office...

Think about the Nike brand. It promises quality athletic shoes and apparel that are stylish and relatively expensive. Similarly, Starbucks promises quality coffee and other food products in an enjoyable gathering place that also are relatively expensive. By contrast, the WalMart brand promises low prices (with quality optional).

In order to create a strong brand, it's very important to really understand who your potential customers are. One of the biggest challenges in business is to avoid the temptation to try to be "all things to all people" and court everyone who has a pulse as a customer.

There are always more good ideas than resources to fund them (are some of your "cattle" stuck in a box canyon or some quicksand?), so it's really important to focus your limited marketing resources where they will do the most good. If your target market is CEO's in service industries, then which are the few service industries you're going to focus your marketing efforts on? Those are the potential customers your brand needs to promise value to.

If you're starting a new business or launching a new product, then the branding exercise of naming it becomes an important marketing consideration. For example, I've always thought that Toyota has done an amazing job in the American market of overcoming a terrible brand name that makes its cars sound like toys. Why create unnecessary challenges for yourself this way?

On the other hand, I think the Diehard brand for Sears car batteries is absolutely brilliant. Doesn't this just scream quality and reliability when you need to start your car on a cold wintry morning?

Here are some interesting and fun questions you can ask your team when you're branding your business or product:

  • If your company/product were an animal, which animal would it be?

  • If your company/product were a color, which color would it be?

  • If your company/product were a sound, which sound would it be?

  • If your company/product were an aroma, which aroma would it be

  • If your company/product were a feeling, which feeling would it be?

  • If your company/product were a car, which car would it be?

So I'm seeing Clint Eastwood (aka Rowdy Yates) riding down the Pacific Coast Highway feeling excited in a sleek, fast red car that smells like new leather and has a purring exhaust note. Hey, I think I'll call this car a Jaguar!

High-performance habits

1. Have a clear brand promise. 

2. Know in detail who your potential customers are, and avoid the temptation to try to be "all things to all people"

3. Create a brand that promises something those specific potential customers will value.

Copyright Terry "Doc" Dockery, Ph.D. All rights reserved.

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