Mirroring Pit Bulls and Reflecting Good: A Pit Bull Awareness Month Branding Challenge

Pit Bull Awareness Month Branding Challenge | KOTAW Content Marketing | Pit Bulls and Personal Branding Series

Last night, on the way home from a walk to the park, my sweet Pit Bull, Ivy, was waiting patiently for the “Walk” sign to illuminate so we could cross the street, when she noticed something in the darkness about five feet away.

Ivy looked a tad frightened, but mostly curious.

I turned to see what Ivy was looking at and saw that she was staring at a tall reflective office building with her Pittie image reflected in it from a distance.

Since the light had not yet turned for us to safely cross — and since Ivy was still a combination of scared and intrigued — I walked Ivy back toward the office building to show her that what she was seeing was her reflection and that there was nothing to be frightened of.

Smiling Pit Bull

The closer Ivy and I got to her reflection, the more and more she smiled.

She saw the cutest Pit Bull she had ever seen — and this Pittie was smiling back at her with the most friendly, happy Pittie smile!

Ivy made some sweet, soft whimpers of excitement as she chased this Pittie back and forth along the office building wall.

My heart broke as I realized that Ivy had never seen an outdoor mirror.

She has seen her beautiful reflection numerous times in mirrors at home but never expected there to be mirrors in the out of doors late at night and in the dark.

What You See is What You Reflect

Ivy eventually realized there wasn’t actually another real-life Pit Bull playing with her in the dark, but I think she purposely suspended her disbelief just long enough to enjoy her romp with this friendly creature in the office building reflection because it is not often that she gets to make a new friend.

And that is because Ivy has two strikes against her:

1. Ivy is a Pit Bull.

2. Ivy RAH-RAH-ROOs.

The Pit Bull strike is why I’m a personal branding coach on a personal mission to rebrand Pit Bulls as the sweet and lovable dogs they are — and why Ivy is KOTAW’s Brand Ambassador.

The RAH-RAH-ROO strike is equally as reprehensible as judging a dog by its breed because it is judging a dog by its bark.

Ivy is the most talkative dog I have ever had — or met!

I am convinced she picked up her “RAH RAH ROO” language from my daughters and me, as ever since she was a puppy, we would all do our own version of rah-rah-roo-ing whenever Ivy entered a room: Ivy! Ivy! Oh my God, it’s Ivy! Look how cute Ivy is! (In high-pitched girly tones this translates very closely to RAH-RAH-ROO!)

Ivy RAH-RAH-ROOs when she’s happy, excited, impatient and glad.

She vocalizes being annoyed, being hungry, being sleepy and wanting me to follow her to another room.

For people to equate her “barking” with being mean or aggressive is just as ridiculous as people seeing their own negative connotation of “Pit Bull” when they look at her. So many people look beyond Ivy’s smile, wagging tail and happy wiggle and see nothing but their own prejudice reflected back at them.

Don’t PEOPLE talk when they’re happy, sad, angry or elated?

The mere reality of “noise” — or lack of noise, for that matter — has nothing to do with the quality of someone’s heart.

So many people won’t let their dogs come near Ivy because she is a Pit Bull loudly RAH-RAH-ROO-ing with excitement and jubilee at the possibility of making a friend.

The small percentage of people who do let their dogs come near her will realize that Ivy will RAH-RAH-ROO so loudly that her bark can be heard for miles — just until the dog is actually right in front of her.

As soon as the dog has reached Ivy, she will become quiet and very shy, as most dogs don’t actually reach this point of closeness despite Ivy’s very loud and vocal pleas that they come visit her.

So when a dog is actually standing right in front of her, Ivy doesn’t quite know what to do.

She will make her body as small as she can make it and look nervous until the other dog wags its tail at her and lets her know it’s OK. And then Ivy becomes so monumentally grateful that it breaks my heart.

Professor Pittie

October is Pit Bull Awareness Month! KOTAW Content Marketing

Sweet-as-pumpkin-pie, Ivy the red nose Pit Bull!

October is National Pit Bull Awareness Month.

Even if you aren’t a dog person, I would like you to use National Pit Bull Awareness Month to learn a lesson in branding from my magnanimous pittie, Ivy.

Just as Ivy looked at her reflection in the office building and saw a happy, friendly, smiley Pit Bull, I would like to encourage all fellow entrepreneurs and business owners to reflect into the world what you would like the world to reflect back to you.

You can’t put up a website, start a Google Plus page or tweet a link to your product and think the world is automatically going to reward you with a surge of website visitors, thousands of Google Plus fans and so many sales you can close up shop and retire off of your sudden (and miraculous) earnings.

Would YOU go to an unknown website from a Twitter link or add an unknown company to your Google Plus circles, someone who had done nothing but link to their site and product with a call to action of “BUY NOW” and “CLICK HERE” just because they said so?

I know I wouldn’t.

The proverbial “We buy from someone we trust” isn’t a marketing ploy.

If you reflect trustworthiness in your social media efforts, you have a much better shot of having trustworthy people reflect back to you than if all you do is post shady links.

If you are giving on social media — you read and comment on other people’s articles and share their material, you congratulate them on a job well done and engage them in meaningful conversations — you are much more likely to have giving people reflected back to you.

And yes, this means clicks to your website, sharing of your articles and possibly even sales of your product.

Platitudes and Personal Branding

There is nothing new about this personal branding advice — the give what you want to get platitude is not something I can take credit for.

But Ivy made me see it in another light when she reflected in the office building the kind of friend she wants to have.

And really, that’s all marketing is — that’s all storytelling is — seeing something old in a new way and putting your own special branding magic into it.

So please tell me — with your own unique spin — what YOU are doing in your social media (and real-life!) relationships to reflect into the world what you would like the world to reflect back to you.

And please do me a favor, in honor of Ivy and in honor of National Pit Bull Awareness Month: Next time you see a Pit Bull (or person) try to see them for who they are and not what your preconceived notions want you to see.

You may be surprised not to see something fearful, but instead a smiling, friendly creature who so desperately wants to be your friend.


  1. Awww, poor Ivy. I would love to hear her RahRah Roos! She’s in a tough spot because there so many irresponsible owners! Spikewas attacked without provocation by a neighbor’s pit bill who charged out of the house after us, and my mom’s dog was seriously hurt by one that did the same. Another charged us on the street and snarled and bared his teeth at us until his owner came and called him off (without so much as a word to us, mind you). But, the only dog that ever bit ME was a German Shepherd. Well, and Boone when he and LooWee were playing while I was doing pilates – ow. My boys act like absolute monsters when other dogs come around. It’s seriously embarrassing. But they get away with it because they’re small. Also, I don’t let them run loose! It’s totally not the dog, it’s the owners. Ivy could teach my boys a thing or two about getting along with other dogs. Not sure I like what that says about me! Hmmm… :)

    Sweet story and great metaphor. I guess I like to give some encouragement and props when I admire someone’s work and enjoy a happy bonus if anyone else does the same. It’s always a nice surprise to know that what I do matters a little to someone! You and Ivy spread happiness wherever you go. Thank you for that!

    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Hi, Alisa!! It’s a sad fact that dog attacks are only “newsworthy” when it’s a Pit Bull that happens to be the one doing the attacking. And despite the fact that the American Temperament Test Society rates Pit Bulls as being the second least aggressive dog, just below labs (http://huff.to/1tDyic8) sadly Pit Bulls face so much prejudice on a daily basis that it breaks my heart. Ivy is actually one of the most rambunctious and wild (in a sweet and silly way) Pit Bulls I have ever met — and I have met A LOT of pitties! Most Pit Bulls are the most docile, gentle dogs in the world. My younger daughter has a theory on that that makes me sad (and happy). She says that so many Pit Bulls have had such hard lives, ending up in shelters and facing so much discrimination on a daily basis that it has made them docile in the hope that this behavior will find them love. My daughter says Ivy has so much love from us that she can be her true self and RAH-RAH-ROO as loudly as she wants. She is such a happy free spirit and my daughter has noticed that any other quiet, docile Pit that spends any amount of time with us starts to let their inner RAH-RAH-ROO reign too! Perfectly quiet, well-behaved Pits will start to get silly and playful after spending time with my girls and me once they know it’s OK :) I recently read this article on Pit Bulls, “What Happened to America’s Dog?” (http://aol.it/1tj6E2H) that makes the startling point that Pit Bulls have only been demonized since the 80s and prior to that, were revered and even called “Nanny dogs” because of how good they are with children. (I knew about the Nanny Dog thing but had never consciously realized that a mere 3 decades did so much harm.) But back to the “Nanny Dog” point — that’s one thing I love about children — they don’t yet have any biases of “Pit Bulls” and so many of Ivy’s friends are little kids and babies! I will never forget a neighbor of ours who lowered her newborn baby (directly home from the hospital!) so Ivy could see him and kiss his bald head. This neighbor said “Ivy helped nurse my cat’s kittens; why wouldn’t I trust her with my baby?” I have personally never met an aggressive Pit Bull, though I know there are so many cruel people out there who abuse Pits into being aggressive, which just makes me sick, as Ivy is the most sensitive dog I have ever known and the thought of anyone abusing such a naturally sweet and sensitive breed to the point where they need to attack to get praise breaks my heart. Ivy has been around dogs that fight in playgroups and she gets so scared and sad, not knowing what to do and looking at me with sad puppy eyes, begging me to intervene and make everyone friends again. She just completely backs away from fights, which is completely opposite of the supposed “pack mentality” that is supposed to take over. The sad thing is is that my Woofie was attacked numerous times by GOLDEN RETRIEVERS who were off leash and charged at her and did serious damage, but they are known as the most lovable dog so these attacks would never make the news. And it’s true what you say about small dogs — they get away with murder! Lucy, the Maltese Poodle we recently adopted after her person moved, has been Ivy’s best friend for over a year now and now that she is ours, I have to take responsibility for her behavior, which includes randomly escaping and running down the street to chase people baring her poodle teeth! If Ivy were off leash sitting prettily and just blinking, I would get Animal Control called on me, whereas Lucy running loose in attack-mode doesn’t seem to faze anyone (except me, as I am used to sweet behavior from my pittie, Ivy!)

      Please give my love to Spike, Pepe, Boone and LooWee — Ivy sends them lots of pittie love, too! She also says thank you for wanting to hear her RAH RAH ROO! Your comment about Ivy and me spreading happiness wherever we go warmed my heart so much I immediately read it aloud to my daughters! Thank you so much, Alisa, for taking the time to comment and for all your sweet words about my Ivy <3

  2. Katttttttttttttttt

    I am hereee and ready to give imma Ivy my #CUSHIESTKittoHUG!!!!

    I hear some of my close friends and family members cautioning me against pit bulls based on their irrational biases. Most – if not all – of them have never owned a dog! *shrug* Some of them are knowledgeable about dogs – and, yes, make a good point that certain breeds might have more aggressive genes – but no one should discriminate without spending time with a particular dog.

    We took Oreo to his second training class today, and the instructor made a very good point while teaching us how to discipline this munchkin: this pup will always remain the same, but his behavior depends on HOW YOU behave! Human beings are supposedly superior beings with more advanced brains, and hence need to realize that how we raise a dog is paramount to whether it will be loving.

    If you throw a dog with a drug-addict and teach him to attack and hurt others, he WILL attack and hurt. All pets aim to please!!!

    I , for one, can’t wait to hear Ivy’s “Ra Ra Roohsss” – oh, she will get along very well with Oreo #InLove

    I LOVE YOUUUU SO MUCH – and love your branding message too!

    I try to be kind and caring and giving – despite having several mean thoughts inside – and hope that my actions will eventually make me a better person! :-( I am just glad to have YOU in my life. WUBBB YOUUUU



    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      I trained dogs for a couple of years in my new, post-disappeared life. In some ways it was the easiest job I ever held — I taught the young pups just about everything they needed to know in a few days and the rest of the time we just played. :)

      But, when it was time to teach the pups’ people, the job grew difficult and, sometimes, traumatic. I didn’t mind the well-intentioned people who simply didn’t know how to communicate with dogs. But the ones who turned their sweet dogs into mean canines broke my heart.

      We recently gave a “forever home” to Lucy, an 11-year-old maltese poodle that used to live several doors down from us. When I met her, she was afraid of me (wouldn’t come near me for nearly a month) and I was afraid of her (she growled and snapped any time I approached her.) About the time I thought I’d met the ONE dog that didn’t like me, she came over to me and wagged her tail. Then she started escaping from her house to ours on a daily basis, terrorizing Ivy and my daughters! I told her we had one hard and fast rule in our house — kindness — and she had to obey it if she wanted to be a visitor. She caught on quickly and grows sweeter every day. She still has some unfortunate habits — escaping through the fence to chase mailmen — but such incidents are growing further and further apart.

      Wow, I’m being long-winded here. The point — yes, there is one! — is that if an 11-year-old dog can learn to mirror kindness, people of any age should at least TRY to treat others well.

      And anyone who mirrors YOU, Kit, will reflect kindness in all that they do.



  3. …and I apologize for the multitude of grammar errors (yet again)! I get so excited after reading your heartfelt words that all thoughts of proper structure and phrasing go out the door!!!



    • Katherine Kotaw says:

      Please don’t apologize, Kit! That is the greatest compliment and it warmed my heart so much I read it aloud to my daughters, who both AWWWWWednalong with me :) Big hugs to you! <3

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