Promoting Michigan Dog Events, Products, and Services

The Michigan Canine Resource Guide is a unique publication targeted to dog owners in Michigan.   Beth Mitchell launched this guide to dog-related events, products, and services in Michigan in 2015 and it has steadily grown as more organizations and advertisers contribute.

Beth was inspired by the Arizona Equine Resource Guide,  published by her sister who is active in equine events in that state.  Beth didn’t have a horse, but she does have a dog, and she had spent a lot of time and energy finding the best resources to train her dog and resolve some behavior issues.  She thought there had to be other people looking for a central repository of information on dog events and dog-related services, so the Michigan Canine Resource Guide was born.

Beth started gathering content for the publication in 2014, creating a dog-themed cover and using her sister’s equine guide as an example of the type of content (with horses) that would be featured.  She had booths at dog shows and dog expos around the state and asked people she met at those events how they publicized their events, then explained how the Guide could expand their audience.  She also asked for referrals to other types of events and host organizations she should include.  She solicited ads from other event vendors and asked for referrals to canine professionals, retailers, and manufacturers to find other potential advertisers.  Many lunch hours on her day job included ad sales calls!  Event-giving clubs and organizations are encouraged to contribute dog events for the calendar to help make the publication as complete as possible; there is no charge for the listing.  Advertisers not only appear in the publication, their events are promoted through weekly emails, they are listed in an online directory, and they contribute articles and blog posts that appear in the publication, on the website, or both. Beth retains a creative director who produces ads and other content as needed and has several part-time ad salespeople recruited from the dog community.

The publication is still promoted through booths at select dog events, and every year Beth attends new events to reach a wider audience.  The guides are distributed free at dog events, participating businesses, and pet specialty retailers.  The guide can be viewed interactively online or downloaded in pdf format from the Michigan Canine Resource Guide website.   In addition to the guide itself, the Michigan Canine Resource Guide has an online calendar of events on their website, a directory listing for all advertisers,  and blog posts on a variety of canine topics.  The Guide also has a Facebook page as well as Instagram and Twitter (@MiDogGuide) accounts. It stays in contact with dog enthusiasts through an opt-in weekly newsletter and advertisers also have an option to send sponsored emails to subscribers.  As the publication has grown, Beth has upgraded her marketing tools and currently uses WordPress for the website and MailChimp to manage her email subscription list.

The Michigan Canine Resource Guide has grown steadily in event listings, advertisers, and circulation since its launch.  Beth’s goal is to provide all Michigan dog owners with the resource they need to find local businesses, services, and events that will enable them and their dogs to live a healthy, happy life together. The biggest challenge is getting ALL the dog clubs in the state to contribute information about their events in a timely manner, so the event calendar is as comprehensive as possible.  Beth hopes that as the Guide becomes more and more of a “must have” for Michigan dog lovers, every canine organization or business will feel it’s an important element in their promotional plan.

 

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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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Pet Greeting Cards

Pet Sympathy Card

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.

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Dog friendly Honda Element at NAIAS

Dog Friendly Honda Element

Dog Friendly Element

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.

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Bedhead line extension: Pethead

Pethead logo
Pethead logo

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!

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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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Packaged Facts at the Petfood Forum

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!

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Honda Element Dog Friendly Edition

Honda showed an even dog-friendlier version of its Element2007 DogCar of the Year winner at the New York Auto Show this week according to an Automotive News newscastJalopnik’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.

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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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