3 Unbeatable Brand Building Tactics from Gila Kurtz of Dog is Good

There’s no shortage of marketing advice out there telling brands how to get attention for their products in a sea of competitors. Adwords, FaceBook campaigns, magazines, celebrity endorsements…the options are truly endless. Yet a brand’s business success is not solely dependent on advertising channels. How effective you are at telling your brand’s story is equally (if not more so) central to your company’s success.

We spoke with Gila Kurtz, founder of the popular pet brand Dog is Good, a dog lifestyle company, to learn how she achieved huge business growth through building a robust, well-respected brand from scratch. Her remarkable business acumen turned her love of dogs into a 7 figure a year business and earned her recognition as one of the top 25 Women of Influence in the Pet Industry.

Launching with a Purpose
Gila recounts the origin story of Dog is Good as a simple moment: while attending an industry conference as a dog trainer, she noticed there weren’t any products offered for pet owners. She saw nothing for purchase that would tap her love of her animals. The market opportunity was undeniable. She launched her business with her partner Jon starting out in her 8x8ft home office, quickly growing to take over her daughter’s playroom, then expanding to a 1000 ft office and finally moving into their current huge space two years ago.

Huge growth came at a time when other businesses were drowning. She recalls, “people always ask me, how did I grow this business, particularly in the height of the recession with a non-essential product?” Turns out that when you can’t rely on great timing, a little thing called focus and determination can be your secret sauce.

Gila’s first rule of thumb: “if you’re not out selling and you’re not really connecting with customers, building relationships and finding new customers, you’ll never have a strong business.” Her driven attitude informed her approach to accelerating business growth with a few key tactics:

Tactic #1 – Grow the wholesale side of the business.
Gila was on the phone every day, in her words, “smiling and dealing”; cold calling retailers and introducing herself, asking if they would they be willing to take a look and be open to being the first retailers to do so in their area. A percentage of these turned into customers, and by reaching out personally throughout the year, retailers felt uniquely appreciated and more open to offers.

Tactic # 2 – Attend a ton of events.
Gila initially set up booths at direct to consumer shows (pet expos, festivals etc) and the volume of feedback on which messages resonating strongest became invaluable to building the brand. When Gila expanded to do their first wholesale trade show for retailers, they got great response and exposure. “It was scary, a large expense and cost us time but we continued to show up at shows and as people saw us continuing to show up, people had confidence in the brand we were creating.”

Tactic #3 – Ensure your product resonates at the emotional level.
As Dog is Good has grown, they recognized their strength and the core of their success in the ability to create unique, clever messaging that resonates on a deep emotional level with a dog lover. As Gila says, “we knew that we wanted to be a lifestyle brand that celebrated not just the relationship people have with their dogs but how they were sharing their life with their dogs.” The goal is to elicit an “OMG that is something i have to have” reaction in a shopper, and Dog is Good succeeds because they speak to who that dog lover is as a person and offers something they can wear, have in their home and give to friends.

Gila and her team also made a critical observation about their audience: over the last 8 years they noticed people are no longer in the backyard, dogs went from the backyard to the bedroom and have become a much more significant part of people’s lives. Part of the company’s success has been connecting this emotional connection with her products which remind customers how great they feel when they are with their dog.  If you ask Gila what she sells, she’ll say “I sell your first two minutes in the door.” She’s referring, of course, to that feeling when you first arrive home and see your dog’s emotional dance of joy. Customers have told her directly, “you speak to who I am as a dog lover, this is who I am.” For Gila, this is the part that makes her the happiest to know that her products can evoke a genuine response.

Bonus Tactic: Pursue the work that aligns your product with your values.

Gila makes supporting animal welfare organizations a part of what differentiates her company amongst the competitors. One of her proudest projects has been BOLO – not only the name of their distinctive logo but also a very special dog Gila adopted and trained for the Leader Dogs for the Blind program. As a professional trainer, Gila naturally said yes to the opportunity as it was not only a chance to sponsor a dog but also raise and train her to become a leader dog. A year long fundraising effort was a big commitment but so was the success from a fundraising and a brand visibility point of view. Working so much also motivated Gila to take a journey of self discovery through the eyes of the dog, and was inspired to reset her work-life balance, even writing a #1 Amazon bestseller about the experience.

As for what Gila learned about gaining traction and success as a pet brand? She explains, “I get this question a lot and I usually respond by posing a question: what does success look like to you? Growing a company from nothing to seven figures is not easy. I think of how Laurie from Shark Tank describes an entrepreneur as the only person who will give up 40hr wk to do a 80/hr week. Success is about the impact you can make, the people you touch, so what does the endgame look like to you? It’s not just about getting to focus on your dreams and always leaving your mark, you need to decide what success truly looks like to you, and make your business around that.”

Click here to connect with Dog is Good on Hubba and see their line products!

Images – Dogisgood.com