Brand or Bust!
Today marks the kick-off of the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days, a 74-year-old showcase of Old West tradition in the shadow of America’s mountain. Cowboys and cowgirls from all over the country come to compete and show off their skills — team roping, barrel racing, horsemanship … and of course, bull riding. Amidst these numerous skills and talents that are still a way of life for many this side of the country, the cowboy way has contributed more than winning the west and historical fascination — it’s contributed to the concept of “brand.”
Historically, when horses and cattle roamed fence-free, owners were left with a problem. How do they take herds of animals that appear relatively the same, and make them distinctive to each individual owner? It wasn’t as if they could simply recognize their cattle on sight — cows tend to look alike. To solve the problem of animal theft and to denote ownership, ancient practitioners of animal husbandry devised the concept of branding — imprinting animals with a unique mark specific to the owner — a brand.
Contemporary ranchers still use brands today. The symbols found on the hides of horses and cattle represent the ranch that owns the animals. The positioning of the mark, the shapes and the lines used — all of these connote meaning. For example, an “S” lying on its side would be Lazy S. An “N” with a bar over the top would be Bar N. But today’s brand is not only a mark of ownership; it is a symbol of pride that can date back to the earliest generations in a ranch family’s history. Ranchers work hard to represent that history in a positive way that honors the brand and the ideals behind it. The more simplistic a brand (using only two marks), the more likely it is that the brand is quite old. Ranchers and purchasers alike perceive a great value in these older brands — they represent consistency, time-tested quality and promises kept. Ranchers work hard to own these perceptions in their business and in the minds of their customers, and they deliver consistently on the promise that their brand represents.
The marketing concept of brand is no less important than the age-old practice in which the term is rooted. Branding in today's market is still about the perceptions you own and the promises you make. All companies desire to set their product apart from the "herd." Their desire is to brand themselves, to create a mark that is easily recognized and that expresses far more than a product. Starbucks, for example, is not merely a cup of coffee. Those white cups with the green logos represent Starbucks' promise of quality customer service, innovation in the coffee experience and their humanitarian efforts in the areas of sustainable farming and fair trade. They strive to own these perceptions in the minds of their consumers. When a company makes the conscious choice to brand themselves, they are not merely identifying ownership of a product. They are creating a story that they can give their consumers, and committing to living the brand in every way, from customer service, to corporate culture. When you make the choice to brand yourself, and make the choice to live your brand, you will never fade into the crowd.
We here at CSK are all looking forward to watching the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo kick-off parade from our offices in the Hibbard Building on Tejon this evening, and we wish all competitors the best of luck in this week’s rodeo.
For more information on the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo, click here!
Bridgett Wood is a Copy Editor and Associate Copywriter with The CSK Group. She has been published in student journals and maintains a personal blog on her experiences with motherhood and farming.