Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pets on social media: what’s not to love?

Recently, in one of my classes at Medill’s Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University, there was a discussion on how the pet market is one of the very few that seems to be recession proof. Several students shared personal stories attesting to the veracity of this statement.This got me thinking about my Mom. I would call my mother frugal in most aspects of her life, but when it comes to her dog, Lola, I have never seen her check the price on a package of treats or a toy. Basically, anything that might please Lola, she will usually buy, along with the best dog food and grooming service.

According to an article geared towards small business owners on pet industry trends, the industry might not necessarily be recession proof, but it is definitely recession resistant. As people are passionate about their pets, this of course leads to millions of comments and posts on social media about pets and their antics. Social media has not just been used as a forum to post cute pics, but has been successfully leveraged to raise awareness about animals in shelters, and also to sell products. A recent Mashable article uses the Best Friends Animal Society as a model for how to mobilize people through social media, as the group did to save thousands of dogs.

The possibilities continue to grow for how marketers can use animals to boost sales. "Boo" has become a famous dog through Facebook, and now he has his own book and is being used in several marketing campaigns. Having an adorable pet as a “spokes-dog” for a pet related company might provide a further connection to the brand for consumers. For example, Petco currently has a Twitter feed with more than 20,000 followers, but Boo far exceeds the retailer with almost 2.5 million likes on Facebook. If Petco created a persona similar to Boo that offered great advice and tips to pet owners, there is no doubt that followers and positive feelings for the brand would increase. Petco could also use this persona to help with donations for pet charities. Clearly, the pet industry is big business, and there is no reason why marketers should not tap into the emotional side to increase sales, while also helping animals in need at the same time.

Margo Zuffante
M.S. Candidate, Integrated Marketing Communications
Photo Credit: Google Images: A1_pet_insurance_comparison.jpg

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