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The Internet has helped animal lovers really go wild — the Lolcats meme and the recent cat breading trend are two major examples of the social consumer’s craving for fluffy news and entertainment.
But beyond leisurely (or shall we say, leash-urely) consuming pet content on the web, there’s also a new breed of marketing geared toward the realm of petcare. Brands are making a concerted effort to engage on social platforms, create useful apps and offer up hot new pet supplies for their animal-loving fans. Some brands and enthusiastic individuals even meet up at the annualBarkWorld conference, a gathering of social media savvy pet lovers for “petworking.”
Here’s a look at a few ways in which digital marketing has gone to the dogs.
1. Subscription Services
BarkBox was launched at the “tail end of November” by dog owners Matt Meeker, Carly Strife and Henrik Werdelin. Much like Birchbox, the focus is on product discovery. “We’re bringing homemade, all-natural treats and other high-quality products in each box — things you can’t find at the typical big-box pet store,” says Strife. And Barkbox gives back, donating a portion of profits to a rescue or shelter. The young startup is not releasing any numbers, but Strife says they’ve had a 100% retention rate, and many people who received BarkBox as a gift during the holidays have signed up for subscriptions.
Not into surprise and delight? You can get the things you know you need atPetflow. Now two years old, PetFlow offers more than 100 pet brands and ships more than 600,000 pounds of pet food each month. The company was founded on the premise that customers should never have to run out of pet food — or have to lug home an economy-size bag of kibble. The site’s “auto-replenishment” system allows customers to save time and money via automatic delivery, whereby they can receive their favorite pet products right at their door every two to 16 weeks, at the interval of their choosing.
2. Brands Going Social
Ecommerce Engagement: Wag.com, the pet counterpart of Soap.com, has a “Mascot of the Week” contest on its Facebook Page. Wag’s 15,000 fans are highly engaged, eagerly responding to polls, submitting responses to photo caption contests and posting viral pet content from Buzzfeed. And for every new fan it acquires, Wag.com will donate $1 (up to $10,000) to Best Friends Animal Society.
Clever Use of Platforms: Last year, we told you about GranataPet Food’s campaign that used the Foursquare API in 10 billboards in Munich and Berlin; when a user checked in to the billboard on Foursquare, it “dispensed” dog food into a bowl on the ground for pups passing by. Dominik Heinrich, innovation director at Die Zietspringer agency, says the creative activation helped Munich pet stores sell 28% more GranataPet during and 10 days after the campaign than prior to it.
Going Social for Charity: Last June, Pedigree donated one pound of dog food to a shelter for every Like, post or tweet about its “Every Dog Deserves…” campaign. By the end of June, 100,000 pounds had been donated. The social good campaign was a more mainstream revival of its 2010 “Write a Post, Help a Dog” campaign, for which Pedigree donated dog food for every blog post about its pet adoption program.
3. High-Tech Pet Care
Veterinarians are taking a cue from the electronic health records movement and digitizing pet records.
“A lot of practices now, especially in [New York City], all have more or less gone to digital records,” says veterinarian Dr. Charles Berk. “There are no more paper charts, everything is computerized, even X-rays are digital.” The reason? Aside from eliminating the risk of losing charts, it’s also really convenient for pet owners to be able to access their pet’s medical history online and on-the-go.
And from healthcare to day care, even doggy day care venues are going high tech. Realizing that it can be tough for an owner to be separated from his pooch all day, companies like Spot in New York and DayPaws in Orlando enabled webcams so you can steal a glance at your pup to ensure he’s playing well with others and getting a good dose of playtime in between naps.
4. There’s an App for That
Realizing that pet owners are often out and about, developers have come out with a slew of apps for pet lovers.
- DoggyDatez is a location-based mobile platform for finding new friends — human and canine alike — while walking your dog. You can “mark a territory” and then see who’s passed through and sniff them out, just like pups do.
- Petcentric is an app from Purina that lets you locate pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and parks. There are also pet videos to keep you entertained while your pup’s at play.
- Rate My Puppy is a dog version of Hot or Not. Upload a pic of your pet, and others will rate how cute he is.
- MyPetED lets you carry your pet’s medical records and vet contact info on the go. The app costs $1.99, and is great for emergency room visits, travel and other instances when you need to pull up vaccination history on the fly.
How else are you seeing pet brands go digital? Let us know in the comments.
Series supported by HubSpot
The Digital Marketing Series is supported by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software company based in Cambridge, Mass., that makes a full platform of marketing software, including social media management tools.