You Gotta Love Dog Car Ads

25640649 – breed golden retriever river filed out of the car window.

The Dog Marketing Blog reflects where two of my worlds, marketing, and dogs, intersect, and I am especially fond of covering the moments when my marketing sub-specialty, automotive also gets into this picture.  Earlier this year MediaPost published an article describing how Land Rover marketed to dog owners at a horse event in Kentucky, and then went on to mention the Nissan Dogue concept which has been making the auto show rounds and the ongoing use of dogs in Subaru advertising.

This is one of those cyclical ideas in automotive advertising (I tried unsuccessfully to get my agency to sell the idea to Chrysler.) The brands and vehicles that try dog tie-ins tend to be those with an “outdoorsy”  persona.  The marketing team will point out how many people and especially their brand’s prospects own dogs, which makes it a natural association.  Association with a favorite animal, much like an association with a favorite celebrity, it thought to be an overall positive for the brand.

A commenter on the MediaPost article noted a previous instance where Land Rover partnered with a national animal rights association, they felt they were reaching a younger audience who showed a strong interest in acquiring their dogs through rescue organizations.  The issue with the Nissan Rogue Dogue, like most “custom” dog vehicles, is that the dog-specific features are usually things that are bolted on the vehicle as an afterthought rather than designed into the vehicle from the ground up, and one reviewer thought the add-ons detracted from vehicle performance.     Often the package of custom branded pet items are way more expensive than similar items purchased from a pet specialty retailer.

Subaru has stuck to this strategy a long time and is the automotive brand that I believe has the longest running and most consistent use of dogs in advertising, I described a partnership with ASPCA and Eddie Bauer back in the Dog Marketing Blog in 2009.  In 2010, AdAge described Subaru’s continuing partnership with ASPCA as well as dog-centric media buys on the Puppy Bowl and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.   Starting with the Dog Tested, Family approved spots in 2009 and continuing on with the Barkleys family of retrievers. The purebred dog fancier in me notes that the Barkleys are a diverse blended family much like we see in ads for human products, with a yellow Labrador Retriever playing mom to a dad and kids that all appear to be purebred Golden Retrievers.

 

 

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Canton Paws in the Park Event

paws in the Park LogoThis 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!

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Walmart expands ASPCA partnership

Lend A Paw LogoWalmart 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.

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Halo sponsors iPhone app for Freekibble.com

Free Kibble Logo
Free Kibble Logo

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.

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Purina’s Rally to Rescue sponsors contest

Rescue to Rally truck
Rescue to Rally truck

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.

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Pedigree’s German adoption drive

German Adoption Drive poster
Pedigree Adoption Drive poster

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.

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Dogtime Media’s Save-a-Dog Facebook app

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.)

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Pet Industry Resilience

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.

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One Nation Under Dog

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.

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