Marketing Like The Big Dogs

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U.S. consumers will spend nearly $30 billion on pet food in 2017[i] with market share dominated by a handful of brands.  Those big dog brands compete with sizable marketing budgets and often multiple ad agencies.  For small and medium sized pet brands with modest marketing budgets, growing market share can seem daunting.  But more pet brand marketers are leaning on their media partners to extend the capabilities of their marketing teams.  They are competing more effectively against the big dogs in key markets of their choosing.

Consider this recent turn-key campaign created for a pet food manufacturer.  The company wanted to:

  • Test a campaign strategy in a pet-friendly market
  • Get product prominently featured at retailers
  • Educate retailers about the brand
  • Grow brand awareness among consumers of a re-launched line of dog food
  • Help consumers understand product attributes
  • Increase sales
  • Feature a same brand cat food in a cause marketing promotion
  • Measure results of the strategy

Campaign Planning.

During initial planning, several markets were evaluated as potential test markets.  The pet food company selected one market where its product was widely available, the regional sales team was solid, and market demographics could mirror many other target markets for the company.

With a primary target demographic of female millennial dog owners, a 12-week integrated campaign was structured using retailer targeted communication, broadcast radio, a “celebrity” on-air influencer, direct-to-consumer email, and a Facebook LIVE social media promotion.  A third-party research study was also executed to validate changes in Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) of the campaign.

Approximately 8 weeks before the campaign start, product was provided to the on-air talent endorser to transition her pets to the new brand.  She was also educated thoroughly about the product and provided copy points for her “live” announcements.

Shortly before the campaign start, the pet food company’s sales team began reaching out to key accounts informing them about the promotion.  This of course would give retailers an opportunity to maximize their own potential for increased revenue during the campaign flight and the pet food company an opportunity to sell in incremental product.

Prior to the campaign start, the iHeartMedia research team leader worked with the pet food company to design an appropriate research study for KPI measurement.

Campaign Execution.

When the campaign began, the pet food company sent a direct mail piece to every retailer in the metro area reminding them of the campaign.  This provided an additional touch point for the company’s sales staff with its retail partners.

Throughout the campaign, the on-air influencer rotated a variety of copy points into her own experience with the product.  She responded to listener’s inquiries and comments about the product through social media.

The campaign concluded with a direct-to-consumer “special offer” email sent to 100,000 dog owners in targeted zip codes around key accounts.  A cause marketing promotion centered around cat adoptions was also executed with the on-air talent.

What Happened.

The results?  Awareness of the re-launched brand increased 117% with dog owning listeners as compared to dog owners in the general market.

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 6.27.54 AM
Source: Third party market research commissioned by iHeartMedia and executed by InnovateMR and Mfour Mobile. N = 544 (268 test/276 control). Dog owners N = 218 (117 test, 101 control) Test = listens to marketed radio station, in marketed daypart, at least 3x weekly for the past 30 days. Control = did not
listen to marketed station at all in past 30 days.

59% of brand aware dog owners listening to the station indicated they were likely to purchase or recommend the brand.

Screen Shot 2017-07-12 at 6.31.31 AM
Source: Third party market research commissioned by iHeartMedia and executed by InnovateMR and Mfour Mobile. N = 544 (268 test/276 control). Dog owners N = 218 (117 test, 101 control) Test = listens to marketed radio station, in marketed daypart, at least 3x weekly for the past 30 days. Control = did not listen to marketed station at all in past 30 days.

Search volume online increased by 26% from the test market and a significant increase in sales was generated.

Big Dog vs. Little Dog Marketing

Big dog brands with deep pockets can reach millions of pet owners across the country.  They can produce expensive television commercials that run in prime-time television shows and purchase hundreds of millions of impressions of online ads.  They might even show up at animal shelters in a brand wrapped semi-truck with thousands of pounds of pet food to donate.  Smaller brands can use the same tactics by partnering with media companies having diverse capabilities – companies like iHeartMedia.

The campaign discussed in this article is real with verified results.  It was executed in one of the top 20 metropolitan markets in the U.S.  The campaign did not blanket the market but instead focused on hundreds of thousands of pet owners instead of millions.  The company is now planning its next flight and considering expanding into more markets next year.  This company is taking small bites out of the big dogs’ market share.

 

Jeani Stevens holds an MBA in marketing.  A seasoned marketer and business development executive she currently works for iHeartMedia, Inc. in San Francisco, CA.  Jeani and her team create and execute local, regional and national marketing campaigns exclusively for pet brands using a wide variety of marketing assets.  Jeani can be reached at JeaniStevens@iHeartMedia.com.

 

[i] APPA, U.S. Pet Industry Spending Figures & Future Outlook, 2017, http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp

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