Bark Alert: This Doggie Daycare Startup Wants Millennials to Send Their Puppers to Pup Camp

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It's a dog's life, but not an unpleasant one, apparently, at Camp Bow Wow. That's what a whole new generation of "pet parents" is discovering.

Julie Turner, Chief Barketer (really -- and VP of marketing too), explained to me that more and more millennials are marrying and having children later. "And they're filling the gap with a dog." Millennials travel a lot too, but while boarding can be seen as a "need" service, day care is really a "choice." With disposable income, millennials are choosing to send their canine companions to camp rather than leaving them home alone. "The mentality is that the dog is really a part of the family," said Turner. At the end of the day, pet parents like to collect a "happy and tired dog."

A digital refresh

Founded in 2000 in Colorado, Camp Bow Wow has 144 franchises, with more in the pipeline. When it started, it was a fresh concept, said Turner; but when she came on board in 2014 it was time for a refresh. A new, mobile-responsive web-site was launched, with a modern look -- "In line with other brands millennials support." The new digital strategy would have a strong mobile component. 

"Pet parents want to talk about [the service] and show pictures of their dog at camp -- something Camp Bow Wow enables by texting photos of dogs having fun to their owners. "There's a strong sense of community," said Turner. (Dogs get a first-day-at-camp certificate.)

The Camp Bow Wow mobile app allows owners to find locations and make reservations, but its number one use is watching live feeds of pets at play.

Engaging with new pet parents

Acquiring new customers has a digital focus too. An important part of the strategy at local level is SEO. Social media advertising plays a part -- Camp Bow Wow is actively working with social influencers -- and referrals are important: "We have a very high net promoter score," Turner said.

Camp Bow Wow reps attend community events ("Increasingly hipster-type events," Turner said), where the #GiveAFetch dispenser is popular. Looking like a giant bubblegum machine -- pictured at top of article -- it actually dispenses tennis balls. Camp Bow Wow also partners with shelters, providing a temporary "foster home" environment to help abandoned dogs with socialization.

As for retention, loyalty programs are currently the responsibility of local franchises, although a national initiative is under consideration.

Most of this marketing activity is handled in-house. With five members, the corporate marketing team is "relatively small." There's also an ops team which helps things get executed at a local level. The email and text programs, as well as app development, are all internal.

By the way, if you're not just here to read about marketing, but a a pet parent yourself, the only other thing you need to know is that you can win a free year of Camp Bow Wow services by entering the #GiveAFetch photo-sharing contest, which extends through October 31. Woof woof.

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