How pet celebrities make the best brand influencers

As influencer marketing becomes more effective for brands, there is a constant need to find the right influencer for the promotion of each product. How about a collaboration with a pet celebrity?

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Image: Elizabeth Renstrom for TIME 

Animals rule the web

First of all, animals have taken over the web for many years now and our obsession with our pets couldn’t stay away from social media.

According to a survey from Telegraph, one in four cats and dogs have their own social feed, with the stats coming back from 2014, which means that this number has been increased even more since then.

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Image: Marketo

It’s not enough anymore to post about your pets, but there’s the need to separate their social presence, which may end up in a more interesting feed than yours. And that’s what makes brands hunt down for the popular pet celebrities to endorse their products.

Appeal to the emotion

Many people are attracted to an image of an animal, as it tends to instantly evoke a positive sentiment, a feeling of happiness, a moment of cuteness that is appropriately incorporated in many successful advertisings.

Remember the most discussed ads from Super Bowl this year? Many of them included an animal, either in an adorable, or a humorous situation.

Emotions in advertising have been used in several cases and they seem to create more effective campaigns, with consumers being more willing to purchase a product after being exposed to the right emotions before.

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Unique content

Pet influencers (and their owners) stand out from their unique content and the clever captions that make brands actively seek for a collaboration with them, as a fresh way to promote their products.

It gets more effective when the promotion is appealing (or even unexpected) and that’s how the brand collaborations with pet influencers started.

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Increasing target audience

According to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, 65% of U.S. households own a pet, while the pet industry spending for 2015 was $60.6b, with the predictions for 2016 bringing it at $62.75. 

This means that there is an increasing target audience that appreciates the promotion of a product through pets, as this seems closer to them. It’s the memorable advertising that brings a consumer closer to the brand, which eventually increases the chances of remembering the product when considering a purchase.

What’s more, it is also important that this target audience is not divided by age, as according to Marketo, pet owners are both millennials and baby boomers, making in total a very appealing audience.

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Solid engagement

Pet celebrities reached an impressive number of followers due to their engaged audience and this makes them even more appealing to brands that seek a mutually beneficial collaboration with them.

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Paying more attention to the product

Is there a better way for a pet-friendly audience to pay attention to a brand than with a sponsored message coming directly from a pet influencer?

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Creating shareable (and adorable) content

It’s not just the unique content that brings engagement, but also the humorous element when combined with the appropriate visual content. There’s an impressive rate of shareability among pet fans, which is also relevant again to the irresistible use of emotions in the right context.

For example, Boo the dog was advertising a partnership with Google Express, which led to 6228 shares, due to the effortlessly cute image. This proves why brands seek such collaborations with pet celebrities, especially when the dog has 17 million followers on Facebook.

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Authentic incorporation of the brand

Authenticity is a major factor for the success of a pet influencer on social media and most of them know the importance of maintaining their uniqueness in all their posts.

Thus, promotion should be made in context, in order to maintain the levels of engagement with the followers. It’s this authenticity that is appreciated by the brand that seeks this type of collaboration and the special way a pet influencer is able to promote a product through a popular social account.

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This doesn’t mean that pet influencers only promote relevant products, like @pupbox and @barkbox, but they are still able to find the right angle in their post when collaborating with brands, such as the case of @lionelthehog and the promotion of the @beautyrest pillow.

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Meet Mervin The Chihuahua

Mervin is a chihuahua/New York celebrity with 46.1k Instagram followers following his daily adventures.

Joey, his dad, talked us about Mervin’s rise to fame and he helped us understand that every pet influencer has a unique story to tell, and that’s what people love.

mervinthechihuahua Instagram

When did you start with this account?

I started Mervin’s account shortly after my fiance and I adopted him in 2014. I’ve had the account for about two years now. Mervin is a rescue from the ASPCA, he was found as an emaciated stray in NYC and while in the shelter had to have both back knees repaired and all of his teeth removed due to severe dental disease.

Now he has a loving home with four other dog siblings. He has become an animal rights advocate and a voice for other animals in need. He is particularly passionate about bringing awareness to issues like pet adoption, the banning of puppy mills, breaking up dog fighting rings and ending the cruel practices in the factory farming industries.

How did you decide to focus on Instagram?

I focused on Instagram because it’s a really easy platform and super popular. As they say a picture is worth 1,000 words and Mervin is very photogenic!

How is the engagement or people’s reactions to your posts?

People are very attached to Mervin, almost like he is a part of their family. On Instagram a lot of his followers tag their friends to see his photos.

His followers on IG are different from his Facebook fans in that his Facebook fans seem to be a bit more dedicated to Mervin personally, rather than just a cute dog they follow on Instagram. His Facebook fans leave a ton of comments and get really invested in his well being and life.

What’s the secret to reach this number of followers?

I don’t know that there is a secret, but it’s very important to find your niche and stick with it. Once you find something that works, keep refining and mastering it. Putting out current, new and quality content is also key.

We don’t post any dark, grainy or poor quality photos. We like to keep the Mervin brand consistent and high quality.

How do you keep up with it now?

It’s actually become like a part time job. I work full time so we take photos on our free time, and very often our days off we will take several photos to post later in the week when we may not have time to take new ones.

We also work with photographers often and do photo shoots which provide really great material. Events are always fun as well, Mervin’s become a bit of a New York Socialite and his fans across the world love to see all the cool places he gets to go and people he meets.

Have you been approached by brands? Any collaboration up to now?

We have been approached by many brands and we’ve done several collaborations in the past but we are particular with who we partner with. We only partner with brands/causes we believe in because we want Mervin’s voice to be authentic.

If we can’t create an organic post with a brand we won’t work with them because we don’t want Mervin’s page to feel like a sales ad. We work with organizations as well like the ASPCA which has been a lot of fun.

mervinthechihuahua Instagram profile

Lessons learned from pet celebrities

What can we learn from popular pet influencers in order to improve our social presence then? (Yes, even a raccoon may teach us interesting lessons about branding):

  • Be authentic
  • Post visual content of high quality
  • Be consistent
  • Add clever captions
  • Encourage engagement
  • Post in the right context
  • Be relevant (see how Doug the Pug promoted Justin Bieber?)

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