It’s National Dog Day. A day to celebrate our favorite furry friends. Not only am I thinking about my two rescue retrievers, I’m also thinking about all the pooches that are pushing non-dog products these days. Have you noticed?
Brands like Budweiser, Amazon, Subaru, Kleenex, GEICO, Verizon Wireless, Volkswagen and others are featuring pups in their commercials. So why are pooches pushing everything from beer to cell service? That’s what the former reporter in me asked. And the advertiser in me answered.
1. Dogs Aren’t Pets. They’re Family.
In the past few decades, dogs have become more than pets – they’re now considered furry family members. In fact, some of the research I found suggests more and more couples are bringing home a puppy instead of a baby. Dog ownership (especially under 25 pounds) is rising while the number of human births appears to be declining. These DINKS (dual income no kids) with dogs are now a legit demographic and coveted target audience known as Pet Parents.
2. Pet Parents Are Big Spenders.
Pet Parents treat their animals like children. It’s estimated that American Pet Parents will spend more than $60 billion on insurance, wellness products, gourmet pet food, designer beds, collars, clothing, treats and toys in 2015. Pet Parents will do and spend just about anything to pamper their pooches. With that in mind, brands that use pups in their marketing are banking on capturing the attention (and hopefully the loyalty) of these big spenders.
3. Dogs are Better Actors.
Sorry cats. Dogs are better actors. They’re loyal, lovable and trainable. Their quirky personalities and emotions are shown in their eyes, ears and adorable head turns. No announcer copy needed. Can you say the same for cats?
4. Dogs Rule. Just ask Subaru.
When it comes to memorable ads, dogs rule. If you ask me, Subaru has brilliantly captured this in its “Dog Tested. Dog Approved.” campaign. In fact, it has an entire section of its website dedicated to dogs and canine commercials. You can watch tearjerkers like “Dream Weekend” or laugh out loud at the antics of the Barkleys, a family of Subaru-driving golden retrievers. Interestingly enough, Subaru started showing dogs in their cars because a survey of Subaru owners showed that seven out of ten of them also owned a pet. Do these ads make me want to run right out and buy a Subaru? Not necessarily. But I did test drive one and seriously consider it when the time came for a new ride for my pups.
5. Dogs Fetch Fans.
In 2014, the most talked about Super Bowl commercial and the USA Today Ad Meter winner was Budweiser’s “Puppy Love”. The beverage company followed that up with the 2015 Super Bowl debut of “Lost Dog”, which was also the #1 Super Bowl commercial according to USA Today readers. On Global Be Responsible Day, Anheuser-Busch released a digital PSA on drunk driving that showed a dog patiently waiting for his owner to return from a night out. Friends are Waiting hit 10.8 million views in four days. Did these ads get me to stop tapping the Rockies and switch to the King of Beers? Nope. But I cried like a baby watching all three. I posted, shared and tweeted, giving Budweiser free social media marketing. And clearly I wasn’t the only one. “Puppy Love” has more than 58 million views on YouTube, “Lost Dog” has nearly 30 million views, “Friends are Waiting” has 23 million and all of them have countless shares, posts and tweets. These dogs-gone-viral videos gave Budweiser more impressions and more reach than you can put a price on.
6. They Call it Puppy Love for a Reason.
The most successful ads make consumers feel something. They hit on an emotion that entices a person to act. Even if you are not a crazy dog person, pooches—and their expressive eyes—tug at heartstrings better than any other animal. They make us happy. They make us cry. They make us laugh out loud. Every head tilt, ear perk, tail wag and crazy antic makes us feel something. Brands know this. We’ve even done it successfully with a campaign for the South Dakota Department of Tourism that featured a black lab with big eyes and a headline that said, “Take Me Hunting”. Hunters responded to the ad in a big way. They sent emails and letters sharing stories, photos and how the ads made them cry thinking about their hunting dogs. If you can move a consumer to respond to an ad, you’ve won. You’ve put your brand in their mind and in their hearts. Dogs equal emotion. That’s why it’s ok, if you ask me, that advertising has gone to the dogs.