Social media rises in pet pushes

Pet marketers are finding that social media is helping connect owners to pets, pets to owners and pet products to both, in what is expected to be a $45.4 billion industry this year.?

Pet Airways, a new pet-only airline that will offer cross-country flights for pets only, is using social media to help promote its new brand and to help with animal adoption through a new partnership with pet-focused ad network DogTime Media. The idea behind the partnership is to extend the reach of DogTime Media’s DogFinder pet adoption program, a Web site that helps connect pets with owners and encourages consumers to look beyond their local regions for pets available for adoption, because pets now can be flown. Traditionally, consumers look for pets within 50 miles of their homes.?

The partnership cross-promotes both DogTime’s pet adoption services and the new Pet Airways, which will launch in July.?

“We are co-promoting because we both believe in the welfare of pets,” said Alysa Binder, EVP/founder of Pet Airways. “We really want to offer a more caring safe environment for pets who are travelling, and we really like DogTime Media’s site, and its pet adoption and pet rescue initiatives.”?

This year, an estimated $45.4 billion will be spent on pets in the US, up from $43.2 billion in 2008, according to the American Pet Products Association. Those costs include food, supplies and medicine, veterinary care, live animal purchases and grooming and boarding.?

Like Pet Airways, Feline Pine, an all-natural kitty litter, has sponsored a new cat blog that is aimed at raising money for animals in shelters.?

The blog,, follows the life of Romeo, a cat who was adopted from a shelter and is now working to raise money to help other animals find homes and proper care. Each month, it runs a Furpower Donation Challenge, in which viewers are called to send in their pet photos and stories and a $1 donation, which is then given to a selected pet friendly charity or service. Feline Pine sponsors the competition and runs ads.?

“People that go to the site are people that love their cats and are people who are spending time thinking about the products that they buy for their cats,” said Bob Shaw, CEO of Concentric Marketing, the agency that works with Feline Pine. “The goal of Romeo is to build a community of people that are engaged and interested in the travails of these cats and as a sponsor, it gives [Feline Pine] a way to be a very grassroots brand.”?

Feline Pine has found that connecting with pet fans in this social way to be more meaningful and relevant than through traditional advertising. ?

“Social media is so great when you have that kind of psychographic target that you have on Romeo the cat,” said Shaw. “Targeting people who are cat indulgent can be difficult to do through traditional media, and what social networking does is allow the cat audience to find us.”?

Unlike traditional cat litters, which tend to position their advertising more like a cleaning product than a pet product, Feline Pine aims to connect with consumers on an emotional level similar to how cat food marketers connect, Shaw said.?

“The pet food business does a lot to connect owners on an emotional level, but the litter business has been terrible about this,” he said. “From a marketing perspective, we’ve understood that there is an opportunity to connect with consumers around their emotions to connect with pets.”?

Feline Pine also is connecting with consumers on a recently launched Twitter feed. Feline Pine’s staff veterinarian will use the social feed to post comments on pet health and invite questions about pet health.?

“The goal is to give people access to us and see us as a brand that cares about cat health,” Shaw said. l?

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