PetCoach Comprehensive In-Store Dog Support System

My husband and I are fans of Shark Tank, and we happened to watch a vintage episode from November 2016 where Pupbox was pitched,  The company was offering a subscription box to puppy owners which followed the puppies with age-appropriate offerings through adulthood, when they switched to an adult dog version of the box.  The segment ends happily as Shark Robert Herjavec makes an offer that the owners accept.

As the owners mentioned the struggles that inspired the business, which involved figuring out what they should be buying for their own pet, it struck me that had they only purchased their dog from a responsible, AKC Breeder of Merit type of breeder, they would not have had so much trouble, as a dedicated dog breeder will follow and support their puppy buyers throughout the puppies’ lifetime and often beyond.

But Pupbox, and in turn, Petco realized that not every dog or puppy buyer is so lucky. People acquire dogs many ways including, from friends and family who no longer want the dog, from rescues and shelters that don’t have the staff to engage in long-term follow-up, as strays that wander into their lives, and from breeders whose motivation to engage with puppy buyers ends at the point of sale. Petco acquired Pupbox in November 2017,  about 5 months after they acquired Petcoach, an online consulting service which also provides the same type of support that comes with a responsibly bred puppy.

In July 2018, Petco announced a retail experiment, turning PetCoach into a retail store in San Marcos, California.  The concept provides a select group of high-quality products and services inside a PetCoach store. Products include high quality, curated food selection, including custom formulations from Petco’s partner Just Food For Dogs and also offers comprehensive online record keeping for dog services available in-store.

In today’s world where specialty retail is under attack from both online vendors and the expanding pet product set in mass retailers, this provides a service level that will be very hard to match.  The question is whether this concept will generate sufficient loyalty and in turn profit, to survive.


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DOGTV – The First Television Channel for dogs

Dog TV logoThis week the New York Times reported on a new cable channel, Dog TV; the story was also picked up by MediaPost.  The first thought that came to my mind, was how are they monetizing this? What advertiser in their right mind would buy space targeted to the canine demographic?  Turns out it’s a pay channel, now only available in San Diego, as an online stream, and an iPhone app.  A national launch is in the plans for late this year.

The premise is that Dog TV is something for your dog to watch while you’re not home, helping to relieve dog owner guilt at leaving the dog alone, further proof people want to offer services for their dogs as they would for human family members.  The channel also purports to help dogs acclimate to a variety of sounds and encourages the dog to relax at certain times and be alert at others.  I’ve spent enough days home with my dogs to know that adult dogs spend most of the day sleeping; I’m not sure they’d go out of their way to wake up for a favorite program.

Overall, the channel is doing a  great job with PR and social media getting the word out as they work toward a the national rollout.  I’m not sure I’ll be popping for an additional premium channel for my dogs, but I’ll check it out if appears in the local cable lineup.


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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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PetsMart and GNC create line of pet supplements

PetsMart and GNC recently announced a partnership to create a line of pet supplements available exclusively through PetsMart retailers and website.  The supplement line launches in fall, 2010 according to an article on financial news site CDTV.

This is interesting development marks the convergence of several trends.  Vitamin and supplement usage is increasing for humans,  pet care is becoming more humanized, and people are becoming more interested in premium nutrition for their pets.  This is a great opportunity for both partners; joining two strong brands in an area where there are few well-known competitors.

My concern is that pets may end up being over-supplemented as many of them already eat a nutrionally balanced commercial diet.  If the worst that happens is that some dogs produce expensive urine when they excrete excess vitamins, that’s not a terrible thing.   But dogs as well as people are harmed by overuse of some supplements. Owners should make sure their veterinarians  are aware of the supplements as well as the food that their animals consume.

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Puppy Tweets from Mattel

Mattel logoAn alert on the Eurodogtraining blog led me to news of a new product announcement from Mattel: Puppy Tweets, a device that allows your dog to send tweets via a collar tag.  The tag responds to noise and motion and sends one of several tweets in response to your dog’s activity (or lack thereof.)   Details on how the device works were a little sparse, apparently the collar device sends data on sound and motion to a USB sensor mounted on your computer, and you leave your dog’s Twitter account signed in while you’re out.  I find it similar in concept to the  sensor-based TweetingBar account which reports on the beer keg’s status in the New York office of digital agency 360i.

Puppy Tweets allows your dog will join a number of other tweeting canines, most of whom have more than a few canned responses to share.  The only practical use I can see is to check on a dog with barking issues when left alone.  I don’t as a rule follow dog accounts that only tweet items of interest to dogs  and I don’t plan on signing up any of my canines when this product launches in the fall.  For $29.95 it might be an amusing novelty to some, but for I can’t see it catching on with anyone who is serious about either dogs or Twitter.

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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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Aqua Pure Breed bottled water for dogs

Aqua Pure Breed logo
Aqua Pure Breed logo

Aqua Pure Breed started following me on Twitter, introducing me to another entry in the bottled water for dogs category. This product offers  innovative user-friendly packaging; it comes in a wide-mouthed plastic bottle  that serves as a bowl.  In addition to plain spring water, Aqua Pure Breed comes in two enhanced varieties, one for joint support and one claiming to support healthy skin and coat. The only package size now available is 8 ounces, and the plain variety comes with either a pink or blue top.

The company website has a retailer finder which wouldn’t function for me, but their Facebook page has announcements of  new retailers, most of which are in the company’s home state of California. Home delivery of 48 bottle cases of Aqua Pure Breed is available for $59.95.

The company website notes product launch in spring 2008, but other materials note that the product became available at retail in the summer of 2009.  Their Twitter and Facebook streams mention high-profile dog events, like the AKC Invitational shows taking place this weekend in Long Beach. The company has also publishes the Active Dog Guide which identifies dog-friendly places in several US locations and it actively encourages people to includes their dogs in more activities and  businesses to become more dog friendly toward both their employees and guests.

What I like about this product is the packaging, which eliminates the need to take a separate bowl when traveling with your dog.  I might argue that 8 ounces may not be adequate for every dog, so I would hope to see larger bottles offered in the future.  Aqua Pure Breed promotes the bottles as disposable; they are recyclable as well. No mention was made as to whether the products are approved for human consumption.

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HBH Pet Products Social Media outreach

Petfood Industry reported on promotional efforts by HBH Pet Products on behalf of their No Grainers dog treats. These include a photo contest  co-sponsored by WalMart which is offering a $200 gift card as one of the prizes. They also ran a Twitter contest; consumers who follow HBH pet products and re-tweet (RT) a message about the contest were entered into a daily drawing to win a clicker and some treats.   The company has also launched both Facebook group and a Facebook page, allowing consumers to join or declare their fandom, respectively. I know I’ve seen debates as to which is better for commercial promotion and MBH seems to have come down squarely on the side of trying – both.

At the time I checked, which was after the Twitter contest concluded, the company had 200 followers, 17 group members and 6 fans, so I can’t say they’re getting the word out effectively. I often see promotions like this mentioned in MediaPost, but this one I have so far only seen mentioned in Petfood Industry, which has deeper coverage of industry promotions, but I would not think is as widely read. Of course, pet treat BUYERS are the ones who really need to know in order to improve these numbers.

Putting my consulting hat on, I’d recommend creating branded identities for No Grainers apart from the manufacturer in social media and also putting more investment into mass media to get the word out to dog owners about the treats – and the contest.   Grain-free products are riding a trend in pet food at the moment so there seems to me to be an opportunity to better leverage PR in support of this brand even if ad budgets are limited.

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Packaged Facts Pet Care Services Report

Packaged Facts recently released the 3rd edition of its Pet Care Services in the US report. I haven’t seen any online summaries of the report yet, but I could glean a few insights from the table of contents available online.  Total expenditures on pet care services in 2008 reached $23 Billion, hitting a 10 year high. Veterinary services are the fastest growing sector within pet services, with the increase in pet obesity with its health consequences as well as increasing numbers of geriatric pets helping to fuel this growth.  The number of households owning cats and dogs also continues to increase.

The report also covers changes in the structure of the pet services industry, increased corporate presence, more workers, and the growth of franchising.  Details about expenditures by service type, pet owner demographics and speculation about the  impact of the recession on spending are also included in the full report, which is available in a variety of formats on the Packaged Facts site.

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Primo Pads crate pads

Primo Pad crate pads
Primo Pad crate pads

Primo Pads was a vendor at the Ann Arbor Kennel Club shows July 4th weekend, so I stopped by to purchase a pad for one of my dogs and exchange one that had been chewed.  I decided to ask the business owner, Gary Berding, how he got into the business of making these durable, high density foam crate pads.  It was quite a tale! After being hit with a severe case of blood poisoning which landed him out of commission for nearly a year, he found himself virtually penniless. While visiting family, he went to a flea market and noticed the busiest booth in the place was selling foam padding. The sellers were the parents of the owner of a foam manufacturing plant who were helping him unload excess product. The material was waterproof,  non-toxic, and high density and was produced in large sheets. Within a couple weeks, Gary had a warehouse full of foam and needed to find customers. Initially he sold the foam for various athletic and household uses. Someone from a local kennel club happened to see his booth at a sports show suggested the foam would be great for dog beds and arranged to get Gary a booth at their show.  The  booth sold out twice the first day and he’s never looked back, focusing exclusively on the dog owner market since that time.

Primo Pads focuses on customer service, offers a money-back guarantee, and stays attentive to customer comments to keep  improving the products.  Upgrades include the addition of a heat sealed tough vinyl fabric covering and standardizing density so all mats are suitable for heavy dogs. Currently marketing efforts include booths at dog shows, a tri-fold b/w brochure, a website and word of mouth.  Pads are sized for all common crate sizes and custom sizes are available by special order.

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