Blogging Out Loud

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Under the Dogfluence.

Numbers reveal that consumers spend more money on their pets than on m-commerce. Marketers should Sit. Stay. And take notice.

Meet Brady. With a face like this, it's no wonder man's best friend often gets to have his organic specialty bone and eat it, too. Accessories and toys aside, there are other ways to market to pet owners.

Entitled. Spoiled. These words used to be synonymous with certain children and, more importantly, reflective of their parents. But chatting with a friend recently, I observed there’s a new “kid” on the block and it looks curiously like man’s best friend. From the cute (doggie ice cream in flavors such as chicken and ham, doggie photographers) to the nutty (doggie dating services, doggie vacation “homes”) to the downright bizarre (decorative dog carpets), Fido is getting the royal treatment from businesses and marketers. And who can blame them? With pets outnumbering people in the United States, it would be foolish for marketers to miss the “bone.” And while part of me can’t help but throw my hands in the air when I hear talk of eco-friendly dogwash and acupuncture for pups and declare “What’s next!,” the Vertical Marketing gal in me can’t help but wonder: What other untapped opportunities are “in the dog house?” And not just for the pets, but, perhaps more importantly, for the people who love them (and who have the money to spend).

Maybe I’m just blogging out loud, but it seems that in addition to understanding the human consumer, smart marketers should also consider unexpected forces of influence. We all know kids have pull, and now studies suggest that half of all U.S. pet owners consider their pets to be a member of the family. Could “dogfluence” be the new “kidfluence?”

A May 2005 survey from Hartz confirmed what many already know: we’re a nation of dog lovers and loyalists. Approximately 31 percent of women spend more time with their pet than their partner or significant other. For men it’s roughly half that number. And while statistics can tell us things we already know — that Fido makes us happy, loves long walks on the beach and showering us with affection — some other numbers caught my eye. In a BizRate survey of 901 pet owners from the same year, one-third of pet owners claimed they would pamper their animals at a groomer, psychic or therapist (I guess that explains the ice cream!). Less zany to me is the idea of pet psychology, and who isn’t enthralled by the magic of the Dog Whisperer? When they’re not being pampered, pets are traveling; the Travel Industry Association reports 29 million Americans (approximately 14 percent of total animal owners) travel with their pets — and like other numbers, that one is on the rise. My Vertical Marketing coworker Betsy tells me of a canine cruise in her hometown of Chicago that markets itself to dog lovers. In addition to 90 minutes on the open water, passengers get a guided tour of the city’s dog-friendly hotels and restaurants, dog parks and fire hydrants. Perhaps the most revealing, though, was this: In 2004, Americans spent $34.4 billion on their pets, and that number grew the following year. That’s substantially more than the $1.2 billion US consumers spent on m-commerce in 2009. Paris Hilton and other celebs aren’t the only ones outfitting their dogs in blinged-out collars and designer duds.

We’d be wrong, though, to think this trend is only about bones and chew toys and cable-knit sweaters, because the consumer ultimately is wearing the pants and carrying the wallet. Another way to appeal to these consumers is to appeal to their love of dogs (or cats or birds or fish). Respecting and understanding your customer — be they two-legged, or four — is good for any business, and there’s an opportunity here to create products that appeal to the certain pet-loving consumers by acknowledging Fido’s place in the marketplace.

It truly is a doggy dog world, and we’re just living in it. Now, who wants a biscuit?

Brought to you by Vertical Marketing Network, a Leading Integrated Marketing Agency.
Photo credit: D. Donohue
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About JJ Nelson

Freelance blogger for Vertical Marketing Network; food writer; bartender.

8 comments on “Under the Dogfluence.

  1. Pingback: Right On Target. « Blogging Out Loud

  2. Jeff
    September 28, 2010

    Having done marketing for a large chain of Pet resorts and Salons for many years, we realized very early on that the marketing of pet pampering had little to do with the pets and everything to do with their owners.
    Take Brady in the picture above as a great example,he may be pampered with expensive toys, but he looks pretty protective of that raggedy-assed flat tennis ball at his feet!

    Like

  3. Ryan
    September 20, 2010

    There are still two unopened Christmas presents inside where we put all the dog toys and treats. I asked my Dad what they were and why have they not been opened. He said that they were the “Snuggie for Dogs”, I laughed and asked him if he was out of his mind.

    Like

  4. Cristina
    September 15, 2010

    Certainly a great topic! I have to admit that there are brands out there that really take pet products very seriously. I remember last winter season the “snuggie” blankets were so popular, as I was walking down an isle at Target something caught my eye. It was a snuggie blanket for dogs! What else are people going to come up with.

    Like

  5. Myla
    September 15, 2010

    Wow- did this hit home. I have seen a huge jump recently in the amount consumers will spend on their four legged friends (some if it maybe a little close to home)! The pet market is continuing to pick up- as the product offerings become more high end. As a dog lover, I know my husband and I more than willing to pay a premium for quality food, medical care and supplies for our dogs. Using dogfluence may just be the way to to a consumer’s heart- and wallet.

    Like

  6. Diane
    September 15, 2010

    With a client that has a dog related to “Brady” pictured above – and some of his business featuring animals – this was some great info to forward along. Thanks!

    Like

  7. Philip
    September 14, 2010

    Dogfluence is running amuck in the United States. How many purchasing decisions are being made with consideration to Fido’s needs? I’d say plenty. And as households turn into empty nesters, I’d bet Fido’s importance to the decision-making process expands exponentially.So marketers, realize that Fido is an important pathway to a person’s heart and unlock the potential sales opportunities with that knowledge.

    Like

  8. Valerie
    September 14, 2010

    As a doggie lover I’ve seen so many fun and so many crazy products and services for our furry friends. And don’t get me started on health care! The vet wanted to do an ionization/rare air treatment to help our dog’s allergies and recommended a follow-up with a dermatologist.

    The pet market is just going to continue to grow. I recently read that the US Pet market is expected to grow to over $70 Billion by 2014. That’s a lot of ionization/rare air treatments.

    Like

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