Dog Rescue at the Detroit Auto Show

A Novel Exhibit at the 2019 Detroit Auto Show

I try to visit the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) aka the Detroit Auto Show every year, and this year I made it down on Tuesday of the public week.  As usual, my focus was on vehicles with dog hauling potential, whether they were small, like the Honda Fit, medium size like the Buick Regal TourX, minivans like the Chrysler Pacifica or big vans like the Ram Promaster.  I’m looking for flat load floor, no liftover at the rear hatch/door, and easy conversion from passenger to cargo modes.  A wide interior package without intrusions from wheel wheels or custom item holders is also a plus.  In other words, maxium carrying capacity with minimum effort to get stuff in and out of that space.  The Honda Odyssey has a vacuum which is a really nice touch, especially if you sometimes transport straw for barn hunts!

Sign explaining Subaru adoption event hoursSubaru’s White Picket Fence

I noticed when I got to the Subaru display that there was a area with green carpet surrounded by a picket fence.  There were multiple banners proclaiming Subaru Loves Pets and a sign sporting the Michigan Humane Society Logo.  A small sign taped to the gate to the area said that there would be adoptions for animals through the Michigan Humane Society on the weekends.

Subaru Dealer Partnerships With Local RescuesSubaru Loves Dogs Banner

On the Subaru website there is a section around Subaru Loves Pets, which is one of the five pillars of the Subaru Love Promise. I saw references to local dealers working with local rescue agencies to  support adoption events, and this event fits that description. I learned Subaru also held an adoption event at the LA Auto show last fall using the same display partnering with Best Friends. Best Friends is a national organization, but one with a regional office and a large coalition of partner shelters in the LA area. There is also some pet merchandise on the brand website, but the focus is more about doing good for pets than pushing branded pet stuff.

Volvo is Also Getting Into the Auto Show Rescue Act

I discovered that Volvo has been doing something similar. The brand started promoting safe pet travel in 2018 and drew attention to this initiative with their adoption events in 2018 at both the Chicago and New York auto shows, both times partnering with local rescues.  Most of the Volvo dog accessories focus on safe containment of dogs within the car with custom-fit barriers and car harnesses.  Volvo mentions that it makes a donation to the Petfinder Foundation for every dog accessory sold.  Volvo is promoting safe pet travel as a support to its longstanding corporate safety promise.

Make Your Dog Marketing Consistent With Your Corporate Brand

I’ve been observing vehicle manufacturers promote their products with dogs for years.  What I like about what I see in these rescue-OEM pairings is that the message is tied into a brand promise that runs through all the brand’s marketing. In other words:

  • Subaru Loves = Subaru Loves Dogs
  • Volvos are Safe = Volvo wants your dog to be just as safe as your family

Love has a more obvious tie-in with rehoming dogs than safety does, but both are caring messages and I think an appropriate match to an adoption event. If you’re going to play the dog card, it should be obvious you mean it, and that the dog-centric part of your message isn’t just about selling branded collars and leads.

Cleo Parker



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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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Subaru teams with ASPCA

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 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.

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