Compassion-First Case Study

How do you help create and develop a parent brand that successfully acquires and organizes under one roof over 28 emergency and specialty veterinary hospitals brands with over 40 locations? You have to determine a point of difference so important and true to pet owners that it elevates you and your family of brands so far above your competition, there’s no looking back.

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How did we unearth what halo point of difference would be able to elevate our company and all the smaller companies inside it? We gathered research on pet owners from across the United States, determining that compassion superseded expertise when it came to pet owners choosing a specialist for their beloved animals. From there, it was all about providing each individual brand unparalleled marketing support and resources to spread the good word.


In order to develop and sell an emergency and specialty veterinarian parent company, we needed to pinpoint a unique benefit that would differentiate and elevate the company and its entire family of brands. From there, we had to carefully apply the benefit to each brand, while honoring their individual personalities and qualities through highly organized and sophisticated marketing efforts.


After conducting exhaustive research across the U.S., we determined that pet owners didn’t care about how much you knew, until they knew how much you cared. While pet owners wanted to know vet specialists were providing the best medical care possible, that was only one reason to trust them. Being kind, good listeners, good communicators and compassionate to the core proved to be top of the list.


  1. Knowing compassion was paramount to pet owners, we developed a parent brand, Compassion-First Pet Hospitals, a company unconditionally guided and grounded in its namesake. The company differentiated itself within the veterinary medicine marketplace by offering the most humane, kind and compassionate practices, along with the best medical treatment available.
  2. Knowing the hospitals that Compassion-First was acquiring each had strong brand “local” equity, we worked carefully to champion that equity, allowing them to “stay local” while still infusing the larger brand message. We also knew acquiring hospitals would be easier if the prospective owners didn’t feel like the equity they had built was going to be tossed aside. With all this in mind we helped provide rebrands and/or brand refreshes for 18 of these businesses.
  3. As Compassion-First acquired “local” brands, we empowered and supported each of the 40+ hospitals and corporate locations with the marketing power and sophistication of a national brand (which included social strategy and implementation) to help attract more vet referrals and pet owners to their hospitals.
  4. To ensure continued momentum and success we helped Compassion-First not only develop the structure of their internal marketing organization but provide interviewing strategies to find the best candidates available as well.


  • In 2019, JAB, a major private equity group, purchased Compassion-First for more than $1.2 billion. This growth was almost 20 times the value of Compassion-First in 2015.
  • Compassion-First was able to acquire 40+ hospitals in just 5 years.
  • Compassion-First scaled from 4 brands to 28 from Sept 2014 – Dec 2019.

By carefully determining the core emotional driver of pet owners, we helped develop a new way to provide care to pets and owners, while building a company which could successfully shepherd and empower a family of emergency and specialty veterinary hospital brands under one roof.

Unbound embraced my vision and helped create and ultimately launch a brand successful beyond all expectations.

John Payne
Compassion-First CEO