This past Sunday I attended the Paws in the Park event at Canton Heritage Park in Canton Michigan. This was the second of a two-day event celebrating pets sponsored by Paws in the Park USA and the Humane Society of Huron Valley along with other local businesses. There were exhibitions and spectator participation events scheduled throughout the day and vendors selling both items of general interest like windows and chiropractic services and pet supplies and services. I made a tour through the booths and met a number of entrepreneurial Michiganders, including friends Julie King of Gertie Gear pet beds and Arlene Dalida, who owns an Aussie Pet Mobile grooming franchise. The new products I found particularly interesting were the Beer Bones made from home-brewed beer waste products and the ChooBee dog toy, designed by a former automotive engineer, whose knowledge of materials, design and manufacturing combined to make what looks like a pretty darn good dog toy. My girls are testing it now!
Walmart is expanding its partnership with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA.) In addition to a line of ASPCA branded products featured in the Walmart pet department in 2008, the companies recently launched a co-branded Facebook page titled Lend A Paw and are sponsoring a Pet Fair in Miami on May 1, 2010.
MediaPost writes about the ASPCA’s promotional efforts including the Facebook page and partnerships with multiple pet product companies to promote April as National Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Month. Walmart’s move to associate itself with this well-known animal charity shows that the company takes the pet market seriously and is trying hard to position itself as a caring, pet-friendly company. This reminds me a bit of Warren G Harding’s promotion of his Airedale, Laddie Boy, as the First Dog, which helped deflect public attention from some of the more colorful aspects of his family life.
The Pioneer Press reports on TwinCities.com about Minneapolis-St.Paul area animal shelters use of social media to publicize and place rescued pets. They discuss the social media strategies of the Animal Ark, Animal Humane Society, and the Minnesota Valley Humane Society All three organizations have established both Twitter and Facebook accounts. The AHS also has a YouTube channel and a Flickr account but these accounts are dedicated to the organization’s activities, not specific adoptable animals.
All the organizations profiled seem to think that the social media outreach has resulted in more traffic to their adoptable animals’ pages, and the AHS has seen its donations increase, in a year when many charitable organizations have seen them fall. Animal Ark cited several stories of animals adopted shortly after adding the “Add This” link sharing service to their profiles. The MVHS feels that potential adopters like the social media outreach, but the staff time to keep these additional sites updated is a drain on resources, free isn’t always completely free!
Petfood Industry reported that Halo pets has signed on as a sponsor for Freekibble.com’s iPhone app, Kibble Katch. Freekibble donates 10 pieces of kibble for each click on a trivia game on their site. The food is donated by corporate sponsors which manufacture premium natural petfoods, including Castor & Pollux and Canidae on the Freekibble website; Halo donates food for games played on the iPhone app. Freekibble is the brainchild of Mimi Ausland, a 12 year old girl from Bend, Oregon and offers sections that spawn both dog and cat food donations. The synergy here combines many elements bubbling up in marketing and social movements today: youth involvement in social causes, casual gaming, mobile advertising applications, and the growing popularity of the natural petfood category.
MediaPost reports that Purina’s Pro Plan brand is sponsoring a contest where consumers can win pet food coupons while voting to select which rescued pet and its owner will win a trip to the National Dog Show as well as a food donation to the shelter that adopted out that pet.
The Rally to Rescue program launched in 2005 and actively supports rescue events throughout the year; I’ve seen a number of pop-up tents with their logo donated to rescue groups at Pet Awareness events. This support direct to groups doing the hands-on work of pet rescue and re-homing is the most effective way to actually benefit homeless pets and rescue workers.
Purina is one of a number of pet food and product companies that promotes its company through support of rescue organizations and events; MediaPost cites both Frontline and Pedigree. As previously noted in this blog, a German Pedigree rescue promotion benefited not only homeless pets, but Pedigree sales in that country.
CMD Global profiles a campaign by Pedigree in Germany which launched in 2008 to raise brand awareness and sales when Pedigree found its products trapped in a stagnant mid-market position. Growth areas in the industry were in value priced store brands and at the premium end of the market. Pedigree’s strategy leveraged the dog-owning public’s love of dogs and sympathy for homeless animals to improve brand imagery and preference rather than focusing on a product-centric message.
The Pedigree Adoption Drive campaign encouraged consumers to adopt shelter dogs and donate to the drive that benefited local shelters. Photos and stories about shelter dogs were featured in the campaign which included television, newspaper, outdoor and point of sale media.
The campaign exceeded its donation target, increased shelter adoptions, and helped Pedigree register an increase in both sales and share during the Adoption Drive period.
MediaPost reports that Dogtime Media has just launched the Save A Dog Facebook application with the support of Frontline as its exclusive advertiser through September. The application allows users to check out adoptable dogs by breed and location, and then virtually foster, walk, and send dogs to their friends. Points are earned for downloading the app and all virtual interactions with the rescue dogs.
For every 2500 points earned, DogTime will donate the equivalent of one cup of food to rescuegroups.org, a technology provider which creates online solutions for rescue groups and will use the funds to lower the costs of their services to those groups. This is the first time I’ve seen an organization looking for volunteers to provide technical services rather than the traditional food, toys and pet supplies for rescue.
A comprehensive campaign is planned utilizing DogTime’s network of advertisers, bloggers, and newsletter subscribers as well as its Twitter stream. Partners Frontline and rescuegroups.org will also participate in campaign extensions.
A personal criticism of the application’s functionality: The breed selection tool could be better, as my search for Bull Terriers near my zip code yielded hundreds of pit bulls, but I saw no actual “English” type Bull Terriers such as I own. Which reflects the balance of those breeds in rescue, I’m sure, – I just wish the listing “Bull Terrier” was better targeted to match the dogs. This problem may be limited to breeds with similar names, but it reduces the attractiveness of the app for people who can’t find dogs like the ones they own to send to people who also own those dogs (who happen to make up the majority of my Facebook friends.)
The animal feed industry website All About Feed reports on research published by IBISworld which confirms the continued growth of the pet industry; several of these trends have been noted in the Dog Marketing blog previously. Veterinary services are growing fastest, with a trend toward continued specialization; increased owner awareness of these specialties further drives utilization.
Pet food sales are expected to reach $15.2 billion in 2009 and show steady growth over the next five years. The migration to more expensive specialty and organic foods which was fueled by the 2007 tainted pet food scandal is creating a richer mix. Pet stores are forecast to reach $11.45 billion in sales this year. It is interesting to note that income from the sale of pets is the smallest category and declining as concerns about the origins of pet store pets grow, leading to partnerships between pet stores and rescue organizations.
Fueling all this growth is the increased population of pet dogs and cats, estimated to reach 169 million in 2009.
NPR’s Fresh Air this week featured an interview with Michael Schaffer, author of One Nation Under Dog, a book about consumer dog culture seen through the eyes of a journalist and first time dog owner. At this point I’ve listened to the interview and just started reading the book, but it chronicles the decision of Michael and his wife to get a dog, why they chose to rescue a dog and their selection process. As life with their dog Murphy progresses, they become more and more aware of the vast array of products and services available to dog owners. Michael examines their choices, and explores the expanding world of pet products and marketing throughout the book, including a visit to the American Pet Products Association convention. I expect I’ll find more Dog Marketing fodder as I get into the book – stay tuned.
MediaPost reports that Subaru is sponsoring the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) Prevention of Cruelty to Animals month in April. The car brand joins Dogpile.com and Clorox (Fresh Step) as sponsoring a number of events across the USA to support the ASPCA’s Mission: Orange. Mission Orange targets specific communities to reduce euthanasia rates among the most at-risk (homeless) animals. The site describing the program does not specifically mention no-kill as a strategy, but seems to support that philosophy, which aims to rehabilitate and place animals where possible rather than euthanizing animals simply based on length of stay or number of animals in custody. Subaru has a history of marketing to pet owners by supporting rescue organizations and offering pet-friendly vehicle accessories during its partnership with LL Bean which ran from 2000-2008.