The American Kennel Club (AKC) is known for its purebred registry and canine competitions. But AKC is also a major educational resource for dog owners. Chris Walker, assistant VP of marketing and communications for AKC, says that the organization is taking its puppy prowess one step further by launching a slew of consumer, educational, and social products by 2015. So the organization launched consumer-facing sub-brand WOOFipedia this past January to acquire new customers, as well as to build long-term relationships with existing customers to increase the likelihood of conversion once an AKC product hits the market.
WOOFipedia provides educational and engagement opportunities to help pet owners strengthen their relationships with their dogs, Walker explains. And enhancing these four-legged friendships starts with learning how to be a responsible pooch parent.
“I always liken getting a dog to [having] a baby,” Walker says. “When you type into Google search about being a responsible parent or learning about parenting, you get hundreds of thousands of search items…. There’s just not a lot of that for dogs. What we want people to do is to be responsible dog owners [and] do their research.”
To help facilitate this education, WOOFipedia provides resources for people at various stages in the dog ownership cycle. For instance, people who click on the site’s “I am looking for a dog” icon can use the Breed Selector tool to learn more about specific pedigrees—such as their personalities, grooming upkeep, and energy levels. Likewise, consumers indicating that they wish they owned a dog can use WOOFipedia’s Matchmaker tool—a short quiz that recommends breeds based on size, personality, energy, and coat preferences. As for those who are currently pet parents, WOOFipedia encourages them to download the brand’s mobile app and earn Woof Points by playing games, sharing pictures via social, and completing responsible dog ownership activities—like taking their pups out for walks.
WOOFipedia officially launched its app this past February. Walker says having a mobile presence was critical for AKC considering its increase in mobile visitors. Mobile visitors comprised 15% of AKC’s total audience three years ago, 25% two years ago, and 35% last year. Based on this pattern, Walker projects that AKC’s mobile customers will account for 45 to 50% of the organization’s total audience by the end of this year.
In addition to the owner-specific content, WOOFipedia provides general information and activities. For example, it has games for dog lovers, such as “Guess the Breeds” challenges, dog news, and training tips.
AKC is being proactive about sharing content with its various audiences. The organization is using tools from marketing automation software provider Marketo to nurture prospective customers and get them to convert across multiple channels. For instance, AKC is using marketing automation to distribute educational materials—such as whitepapers and webinar information—to specific opt-in audiences, ranging from breeders to casual dog owners.
Fortunately for AKC, dog owners tend to be a particularly social breed. So WOOFipedia tailors its experience accordingly by hosting photo-sharing contests and dedicating an entire page to entertaining and informative dog videos. AKC also partnered with greeting card app CleverCards—a product of Dublin-based technology company Cleverbug. When a consumer downloads the app and logs in through Facebook, the app leverages that consumer’s friends and photos to generate customized cards for personal milestones, such as for a friend’s birthday. Consumers can then share their cards digitally for free or pay a fee to have their cards printed and mailed.
With WOOFipedia, consumers can upload images of their own dogs or choose from WOOFipedia-branded content to create their cards. Cleverbug CMO Nick Ruotolo says that the proprietary cards allow both companies to produce revenue through user-generated content.
AKC’s Walker says that the WOOFipedia website generates approximately 200,000 unique visitors a month and that the site is acquiring 3,000 to 5,000 customers a day across all of its channels, including social gains such as likes and email signups.
So what has AKC learned through this fetching experience?
“People love dogs,” Walker says. “You look at the Internet now, and it’s all about people’s pets, kids, and food…. Dogs are at the top of that hierarchy.”