Beyond the LOLcats: How Brands Are Connecting With Pet Parents Digitally

by / Tuesday, 01 October 2013 / Published in E-Commerce, Strategy
It’s no joke that the internet is powered by pets. Searching #catsofinstagram returns 3,567,421 pictures (#dogsofinstagram, 3,307,625. It’s a close race). The celebritydom of Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, and Maru shows no sign of stopping. But between skimming the latest cat gifs on BuzzFeed or Instagramming Fido, pet owners are looking for a little more than just their animal LOLz. Here’s a few ways brands are attempting to strike a deeper connection.

Tugging the heartstrings

Petco recently invested $15 million on a new ad campaign, “The Power of Together,”  which moves away from the in-store services & deals that typically drive its marketing. The focus on emotional connection between owner & pet is part of a larger initiative to differentiate Petco from competitor PetSmart. Whether or not the campaign will accomplish that goal is to be seen, but it’s pretty hard not to get warm fuzzies at the site of a dog towing his wheelchair-bound owner in the newest commercial.

Broadening the focus on the holistic pet

A May 2012 study found that one third of US pet owners spend at least 30 minutes researching pet wellness or nutrition each week. Iams, Pedigree, and Purina are a few of the many pet food brands hoping to reach these owners with wellness content on their sites. Petco has also emphasized the larger holistic message with WholePets, a content microsite aimed to provide pet owners with wellness articles.

Aligning with a cause

Social media has proved an effective tool for animal causes, and many brands are piggybacking onto these efforts. While most of the pet care brands we’ve observed have partnered with animal adoption organizations, Purina has championed a “Pets at Work” message to promote pets in the office setting. It’s a message we at Fluid are certainly on board with!

Offering a larger digital solution

We can surely get behind a feel-good message or cause as pet owners, but the real digital successes will be those who offer something more to the online pet parent.

In redesigning PetCareRx, Fluid utilized personalization and reordering for an experience that becomes catered to a user’s pet over time. Interactive resources, such as a localized tick tracker and vet finder, round out content and product recommendations personalized to the pet’s needs. All serve to help automate and simplify pet health.

BarkBox offers a different kind of automation- a monthly subscription sampling of dog treats & toys (think Birchbox for pups). Chances are, you’ve seen one of their ads pop up on your Facebook newsfeed, as the service invests heavily in Facebook ads to drive customer acquisition. After hitting 50,000 paying customers and $1 million in revenue per month, BarkBox has set the bar high with a goal of 100,000 subscribers by the year’s end.

BarkBox has expanded its service to a content site, BarkPost, and healthcare service, BarkCare, which offers 24/7 vet video chat for health questions. The site’s founders say BarkPost has been successful, and time will tell whether BarkCare’s untraditional method of vet care will catch on. But given BarkBox’s success in the past year, it seems that there is an audience for innovative digital pet products.