PetSmart Barks Up the Right (Marketing) Tree

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The pet brand turns a quirky, unofficial holiday for dog lovers into a major marketing opportunity.

Marketers at PetSmart say they've realized that the way to a man's heart is through his dog.

That's why on August 28, National Dog Day, the marketing team decided to leave its paw print on the extensive conversations celebrating family pets—conversations that reverberated across social media. “We knew it was important to join in on National Dog Day not only as a great way to celebrate dogs, but more importantly we know how significant National Dog Day is to so many of our consumers,” says Eran Cohen, EVP of customer experience at PetSmart. “So it was natural for us to participate.”

The idea, Cohen says, was not just to enter the conversations, which according to social analytics firm Topsy was greatly comprised of more than 780,000 tweets. But the goal was to create an entire marketing plan that consisted of genuine conversations with dog lovers, lots of user-generated content such as personal pet photos, and interactions with the brand that went beyond the unofficial holiday.

“We're always looking to participate in a relevant and fun way for our fans, followers, and the social media community in general,” Cohen says. “Pet enthusiasts like us were already sharing photos of their dogs in celebration of the day. And PetSmart surprised them with fun giveaway[s]…when they tagged @PetSmart along with #NationalDogDay.”

He says the brand's social strategy rode the wave of excitement—a momentum that allowed PetSmart to propel the company to the fore of the widespread chatter, position the brand as an advocate for animals—even those without homes—and establish it as a supporter of all pet lovers.

Cohen says that PetSmart's efforts were nothing short of successful. “PetSmart earned 56% of the #nationaldogday conversation in the pet space on Twitter,” he says. “[It's obvious that] listening to and engaging with our consumers helps us better understand them, and [that's] crucial to our success.”

We're loving these #lazy #DogDays of summer! #NationalLazyDay (IG @friscoandsisternola)

A photo posted by petsmart (@petsmart) on

PetSmart isn't the only brand that optimizes unofficial holidays. In fact, quirky, unofficial holidays are a recent marketing trend that's taken the social media space by storm, with seemingly every holiday from National Underwear Day and National Doughnut Day to National I Love My Feet Day. Marketers at PetSmart have celebrated numerous days, including National Lazy Day during the lazy dog days of summer. Without question, it's social media that's been the magnifying force for brands like PetSmart.

“Through our social media platforms we are able to listen, inform, entertain, share, delight, and surprise our community,” Cohen says. “It's that sort of value that helps us become a trusted partner to our consumers.”

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