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 Card Emporium, a blog associated with a card sending business focused a post on the potential of pet greeting cards. Noting the strength of the pet market and pet humanization trends, the author points to pet greeting cards as an area worthy of investment, both for retail sales to pet owners and as a relationship tool for businesses. Cards from pets, to pets, and acknowledging pet-related milestones in the lives of pet owners are all areas ripe for expansion.
I attended the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit this morning and was able to see the Honda Element decked out with its Dog Friendly package. I’ve read about this option before in both the trade and dog-centric press, but this was my first opportunity to see it in person. The package includes a soft sided crate anchored in the vehicle via a platform which sits a couple inches above the floor and encloses the area behind and below the seatback of the rear seats. There is a collapsible ramp for the dog to walk up into the car and a fan in the rear compartment which directs air toward the crate. The car’s plastic floor cover is embossed with a bone design and all the seats have a dog-patterned seat covers which feel something like a wetsuit, I assume that this fabric is dog hair and slobber repellent. A spill-resistant dish, collar and lead, tag, tote bag and poop bag dispenser are also included; buyers order custom sized items after purchase.
I recently came across an article discussing Pethead grooming products in Pet Product News International magazine. Pethead is licensed to Skaffles LLC by Bedhead, which is an edgy brand of human hair products which features packaging with unusual shapes, colors and fonts. This is the first time I’ve seen any human hair care or personal care brand extended into the pet space. Like the Bedhead brand, Pethead products are positioned at a premium price point, with shampoos at $18 on Amazon.com According to the article, this is also Skaffles’ first foray into pet products, the company previously specialized in trendy accessories targeted at teenage girls. The Pethead brand also includes accessories for dogs. Skaffles plans to further extend its pet products into grooming items for cats and American Kennel Club (AKC) licensed merchandise. This product line again confirms the humanization of pets trend and marks a breakthrough in crossover branding, which I’ve previously only seen in pet toys and clothing. I’m eager to see what pops up next!
I just finished reading Pets in America by historian Katherine C. Grier, published in hard cover in 2006 and paperback in 2007. Although I found it a bit dry in places, overall it is a fascinating account of the subject. The book includes a tremendous amount of information about the marketing of pets, pet products, and retailing of all things related to pets. Highly recommended for anyone with an interest in the topic, for a longer review I’ll refer you to Alida Baker’s in the New York Times.
I got an email today from Packaged Facts announcing that one of their analysts, David Lummis, will be presenting at the Petfood Forum next week in Chicago. His topics will include the increased involvement of celebrities in pet food marketing (Rachel Ray, Cesar Milan), the influence of online marketing, and the trend toward organic/natural pet foods. The forum runs from April 20-22 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare and covers a wide spectrum of topics including manufacturing, ingredient approval, marketing and the impact of petfood on behavior. Sounds like a fascinating program!
Honda showed an even dog-friendlier version of its Element, 2007 DogCar of the Year winner at the New York Auto Show this week according to an Automotive News newscast. Jalopnik’s coverage includes photos of the Honda Element Dog Friendly edition which features a dog bed, pet restraints, rear ventilation system, no-spill bowl and dog ramp. This special edition is slated to launch in fall, 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.