Great Source for Dog Marketing Intelligence

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Barriers to entry are low in many sectors of the dog-related industry.  Which means that there are many small businesses marketing products and services for dogs and other pets.  Many dog product entrepreneurs are fueled by their passion to solve a problem they experienced with their own pets which inspired them to launch their business.   They start with an idea, develop a product or service and then start selling with limited resources for marketing support, let alone market research and analysis.

Enter John Gibbons, the Pet Business Professor.  John maintains a website where he publishes detailed analyses of public data about pet spending, discusses industry trends, and offers guidance on how to get the most out of pet industry trade shows.   This information can help pet businesses of all sizes, but I think should be of particular interest to small companies without the resources to dig into all this data themselves.   I suspect even many mid-size to large businesses are not doing this type of in-depth analysis of data that is publicly available, but not user-friendly in its original form.

You can subscribe to The Pet Business Professor blog via email to get updates when a new article is published.  The industry deep dives don’t come out very often, but they contain a treasure trove of information.  In the weeks leading up to major industry trade shows, like Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo, the Pet Professor will publish maps and attendance strategy guides to help you map out a plan of attack to get the most out of these vast displays from pet product purveyors.

I recommend that everyone in the dog marketing space visit The Pet Business Professor website, you’re certain to learn something of value.

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Facebook Pages for Dogs

Dogs in Social Media Infographic

While strictly speaking this post is more about dogs in social media than marketing per se, I just couldn’t resist a post about an article on Mashable which reported on a Lab 42 study and infographic about the number of dogs on Facebook.  It seems that about 14% of the people in the Lab 42 study had created Facebook pages for their dogs,  consistent with a UK study also reported on Mashable, which found that 10% of all UK pets have some sort of social media profile, including not only Facebook, but also Twitter and YouTube.  No mention of dogs on Linkedin, I’ve seen a number of dog-business interest groups, but no canines yet.

When I first saw these articles, I wondered how this squared with Facebook’s Terms of Use, which I thought limited profiles to real people, who are also permitted create pages and groups for other entities.  When I read the fine print, it just prohibits people from creating profiles without permission from  the person being profiled; given the large number of dogs on Facebook, I assume they fall within the rules.

Checking a couple of the dogs I’m associated with on Facebook , Rufus has a personal profile, while Satchel has a page.  I’m also friends with a few profiles that represent Bull Terrier kennels, an entity that I think is more human than canine, but perhaps a gray area. The most popular Facebook dog with over 1 million fans for his page,  is  Boo the Pomeranian.

NOTE: I recently noticed a thread on the Facebook group “AKC Judges Report Card” discussing whether judges should friend dogs, specifically dogs that might be shown under them, on Facebook.  The thought that the dogs might want to be careful who their friends are never crossed my mind when I created this post!

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Research on Senior Pets and Overweight Pets

Packaged Facts announced the publication of a new report analyzing the need for products targeted at senior pets, overweight pets and special needs pets in the US.  The report notes that according to American Veterinary Medical Association and Association for Pet  Obesity Prevention research, the proportion of American pets in these groups is higher than the market shares for products targeted at them. This indicates an opportunity for product manufacturers and retailers who can convince these pets’ owners to purchase products addressing their specific conditions.

According to the most recent research by the AVMA and APOP, over 40% of pets are either over the age of 6 or overweight, their studies did not indicate what proportion of pets fall into both categories.   In a related story, Petfood Industry magazine reported on a study which found that Beagles who were allowed to overeat a diet that included human snacks re-gained weight at much lower caloric intake levels than those required to gain weight in the first phase of the study.

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Pet Industry Overview from Pet Food Forum

The July issue of Petfood Industry magazine includes an article titled “Business is Barking” which summarizes Packaged Facts presentation from the 2009 Pet Food Forum.  Although I have to call Packaged Facts out on their creative cropping of the Y axis on a few charts for dramatic effect, the overall message is positive for the pet industry’s potential.

Total pet market spending was up 1.4%  in 2008 compared to the prior year with some indivdual brands up by double digits. Unfortunately, sales are forecast to see a slight (0.5%) decline in 2009, but are expected to regain momentum and continue climbing through 2013.

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Pets in America book review

Pets in America 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.

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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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Pet Food Recalls Increase Sales

MediaPost reports that the dollar value of pet food sales actually rose in the wake of the 2007 pet food recalls as owners shifted their purchases to higher end foods which promised more control and transparency regarding manufacturing and food sources.  This information was reported in the latest release of the “Pet Food in the U.S.” study by Packaged Facts.  The Whole Dog Journal’s recent recommended foods articles emphasize this trend, as this year they refuse to recommend any foods which do not disclose the actual location of manufacture. The Packaged Facts report also notes that like most industries, marketing dollars are shifting more and more to online media and that both Proctor and Gamble and DelMonte are shifting more of their spending into branded entertainment.

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Dog Time Media

Hard to believe I hadn’t heard of this vertical ad network until I read this article in MediaPost today.  The DogTime Media site claims they have 180 high quality pet site partners; the MediaPost article mentions another 130 bloggers.  The network claims to reach more than 10 million visitors a month and enables content sharing across the sites. The advertisers mentioned in the article about a new chat application include the usual suspects: pet food, big box and cleaning machine manufacturers.

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Retailing Tips for the Pet Department

I’m taking advantage of an unexpected break in employment to get back to posting. Yeah! (for the posting opportunity, not the renewed task of job-seeking)

This summer Retailwire published a series of pet department retailing tips from Nestle Purina. I’ll start with the one talking about allocation of space within the pet department.  They recommended a 60/40 dog/cat split, which at first I found surprising, as I’d always heard there were more pet cats than dogs in the US. Well, upon further research I found this was true, but there are actually more dog-owning HOUSEHOLDS, as cat owning households in general own more cats (2.2) than dog owning households have dogs (1.7) according to a 2007 study by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and there are actually more dog than cat owning households in the U.S. overall (37% vs 32%.) Since dogs are generally bigger, they eat more, play with bigger toys and are generally more tolerant of wearing silly clothes, I can see where the 60/40 rule makes sense.

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