Everything is pawsome: The rise of pet influencers online
Loni Edwards had just settled into her seat with Chloe and her venti iced passion tea at a New York City Starbucks last September, when a woman excitedly rushed over to snap photos of her companion, a mini Frenchie, who happens to be a budding social media star with over 123,000 Instagram followers.
“That was the point at which I realized she was famous,” Edwards said.
Chloe is merely one of the many rising stars in the world of online pet influencers that brands are enlisting in ad campaigns, managed by Edwards, her self-proclaimed “momager.” In just two and a half years, she has starred in a Budweiser Super Bowl promotion, attended events at fancy hotels and resorts, been a photographer’s muse and collaborated with brands like Vogue, Martha Stewart, Barneys, Bow & Drape and PetSmart.
“People have this innate perception that pets generate these warm, happy, fuzzy feelings,” said Edwards. “Brands are starting to reach out because they make people genuinely happy, and they want their ads to make people happy.”
Chloe is not alone, not even close. Several other of her four-legged friends, including Toast the King Charles, Nala the cat, Loki the Wolf Dog and Sir Charles Barkley, spend their days strutting around with their entourages, hopping from one photo shoot and branded endorsement deal to another, earning anywhere between $2000 to $3500 per deal.
What’s underpinning this is the rise of the visual Web. With the power of photos on platforms like Facebook and Instagram, pets have emerged as recognizable stars. The top five pet profiles on Instagram, including Nala’s, have well over a million followers each. Grumpy Cat turned out not so much as an anomaly but a harbinger of the age of the pet influencer capable of racking up likes by the thousands simply by putting on a scarf. That has, perhaps inevitably, piqued the interest of big brands.
“You’re essentially merging the two biggest trends — social and pet memes — and tying that with branding,” said Speakr founder and CEO Marco Hansell. “It’s the perfect formula.”
“These pets are amassing huge followings on their own,” added Jill Sherman, svp of social strategy at DigitasLBi. “Brands aren’t making pets famous — it’s the other way around. And with the pressure to create a constant stream of new and interesting content, brands are searching for influence and reach in all forms.”
JetBlue roped in several pet influencers, including Marnie the Dog, to set up a “Wooftop” garden in August 2015, an outdoor recreation area for travelers and their pets post security at Terminal 5 of New York’s John F. Kennedy airport.
— JetBlue Airways (@JetBlue) August 26, 2015
For its 2015 Christmas campaign, United Airlines hired Sir Charles Barkley, another Frenchie, for a holiday campaign. Most recently, Loki the Wolf Dog was the star of a new virtual reality campaign by Mercedes Benz for its 2017 GLS SUV.
Shooting a 360° video with @ExperiusVR was something we never imagined being able to do, but it was so rad! If you’ve never seen a 360° video, check the link in our bio! It’s a trip! #MBphotopass @mbusa @trentbonaphoto
A photo posted by Breakin’ Hearts Since 2012 (@loki_the_wolfdog) on
“We are constantly trying to work with different influencers and ways to help tell our brand story,” said Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services for Mercedes-Benz USA. “But Loki and his story aligned particularly well with our SUV portfolio — our research has shown that a large number of SUV owners have pets.”
The American Pet Products Association projected that spending on pets would surpass the $60 billion mark in 2015. It’s not a surprise, considering pets have become more like family in recent years. Today, pets have their own spas, do yoga, nibble on organic food and even quaff doggie beer.
The popularity of pet influencers has spawned an entire cottage industry of platforms trying to cash in on the seemingly unlimited opportunities of brand extensions. Take BlogPaws, an online pet blogging community inspired by mommy bloggers — but for pets. Even Edwards, for her part, recently launched a new venture called “The Dog Agency,” where she hopes to play the perfect matchmaker between pets like Chloe and brands. Bark & Co. also launched its own platform, called BarkPack. There is also a website dedicated to tracking the most popular pet influencers, called Fur Card.
“In early 2015, Bark & Co. was having about three conversations a month with brands about BarkPack and our affiliate network,” said Suzanne McDonnell, Chief Revenue Officer of Bark & Co. of its influencer arm BarkPack. “By year end, we started having three conversations a week. Today, it is part of almost every conversation we have with advertisers and brand partners.”
These platforms provide brands access to their wide and dedicated networks of pet owners and their pets, which brands can tap into as they seek to generate awareness and engagement around campaigns in a fun, creative and relevant way. BarkPack itself has worked with a range of advertisers like P&G’s Swiffer, American Express, United, 1 Hotels and Anheuser-Busch on a range of partnerships.
Even more traditional influencer networks are seeing brand requests to work with pet influencers amplify. Speakr, for instance, saw a 200 percent growth from 2014 to 2015 in pet requests, said Hansell. “And so far in 2016, we’ve already had as many pet requests as we did in 2015 altogether,” he said.
With so many pets netting a million or more followers these days, brands can also easily achieve scale, said Sherman. Most pets are also still cheaper than people — although according to Hansell, the more popular ones are well on their way to becoming as valuable as traditional influencers, commanding tens of thousands of dollars for a post.
“There is also a sense of safety in terms of working with a lovable pet rather than humans who talk — and could end up not being good fits or stirring up a controversy,” said Chan Tran, head of JetBlue’s branded content and social media marketing.
While many of these pets may have their own individual personalities, as a whole, they tend to be more malleable to just about any situation. All they have to do is look cute.
“They have a universal appeal unlike most other things,” said Aikman.
‘Influencer deals are being paused’: As Facebook boycott begins in earnest, influencer marketing feels a sting
The latest move to pause influencer marketing comes as marketers are not only reconsidering where their ads appear and the kind of content they appear next to, but as they work to figure out how they can better support Black creators and Black-owned businesses following the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests.
As Facebook boycott continues, here’s a look at what major marketers were spending on Facebook and Instagram
To get a sense of how much advertisers are pulling back from Facebook, Digiday reached out to ad-tracking firm Pathmatics. The company provided estimates for how much advertisers spent on the platform during July 2019 as well as from July 2019 to 2020.
Member Exclusive‘Performative posting’: As agencies share their equality values online, staffers say they have to do much more for Black employees than post
Agency employees and execs say agencies need to do more than make statements to be better for Black employees.
SponsoredFour ways to adapt to the changing publisher ecosystem in 2020
By Neal Sinno, general manager Americas at GeoEdge For marketers, 2020 started out with so much promise — but this changed rapidly as the industry faced a global epidemic head-on. Not only did our own daily routines come to a screeching halt, for many of us our professional lives did as well. Almost as quickly […]
‘Don’t want to piss off customers’: With manufacturing and exporting snarled, some DTC brands are adapting their advertising
Media buyers say that supply chain hiccups have caused them to pause or significantly reduce media spending anywhere from two weeks to five weeks for some DTC brands low on product inventory.
Beyond remote work: Bringing serendipity back to the office
This article is part of the Future of Work briefing, a weekly email with stories, interviews, trends and links about how work, workplaces and workforces are changing. Sign up here. Kai Micah Mills had been working in a different state from his work partner for years. More recently, though, his partner, Ben Adamsky, made the move […]