Are pawsome petfluencers better than human influencers? Well, they just might be!
In the gloomiest of situations they come to you expecting nothing in return, to offer selfless love and warmth- the only beings in your good and bad times, these four-legged furry creatures are out there ALWAYS. WThe marketing world has found effective influencers in these paw-some friends of ours and the trend is here to stay - we call them Petfluencers!
Petfluencers have seemed to become the favorite lots, some even replacing celebrity endorsers for various brands over the years. Be it Vodafone Pugs or Loki of Mercedes Benz or the age-old Nestle Rolo’s ad featuring Dumbo (the elephant), they have done wonders.
The fundamental trend for a marketer is to understand is that the present-day consumer is more likely to trust the opinion of a friend or a real-life role model who is believable and relatable. Data suggests that 92% of consumers would trust a social influencer more than a typical advertisement or a traditional celebrity endorser, shares Prasad Shejale, Co-Founder and CEO, Logicserve Digital.
It is also safe to say that the human love for pets has grown in the recent past and there is scientific evidence backing this claim. According to John Bradshaw, a research fellow at the University of Bristol in England and author of “The Animals Among Us: How Pets Make Us Human.”, there is proof that interacting with pets does reduce people’s stress, causing changes in oxytocin and in beta-endorphins.
Millennials, especially, are seen to be the heart of this trend. A recent study Gale found that 44 percent of millennials see their pets as ‘starter children’, a sort of practice before the real deal.
In recent times many brands like Vivo and Honda Jazz have turned to these furry creatures. From being a photographer’s muse to attending live events to starring in ad campaigns themselves, these petfluencers are on a rise with a few also boasting of millions of fan following on Instagram.
Petfluencers - why the furry influencers are on the rise?
As Brand Expert Harish Bijoor puts it- Pets break the boredom that people bring. Advertising is filled with people, their talk, their shout, their noise, and their antics. Pets bring a different and calmer aura to advertising altogether and break the clutter.
With any logical reasoning comes a rationale approach filled with emotional sentiments. Our furry friends are experts in bringing this out. Consumer’s deepening identification with their pets creates a huge opportunity for brands.
There is a strong relationship between pets and their owners and marketers take this as a successful selling opportunity.
Sherina Kapany, Founder, sunSTRATEGIC shares that a brand can display genuine + human qualities by showcasing the DNA of their brand value through pets. Due to changing perception of pets with the generation change, marketers are focusing on customizing their brands to pet-friendly. The loyalty of your consumers depends on how well a brand is marketing and displaying their principles itself in order to connect with them. A mass of audience is drawn in by the quality and approach of a message to feel a mutual connection.
Back in 2015, insurance brand, Geico created an "Unskippable" YouTube pre-roll ad featuring a St. Bernard dog, wreaking havoc as the human characters stay still. The campaign garnered numerous awards and was deemed literally Unskippable. The campaign garnered 4 million views within the first week.
Social Kinnect’s Founder, Rohan Mehta too believes that since these ads do not feel promotional, consumers tend to make purchasing decisions based on emotions. Also, pets have a universal appeal and that makes them unique as influencers. Further, there is no pressure to get the brand message right or training a spokesperson. Their authenticity is what appeals and does the job.
Our fondness for animals and the happiness related to the human-animal interaction has a direct impact on the emotions they inspire when seen alongside a brand. We have, in effect, extended the circle of influencers we trust, to include our furry friends as well. In Prasad Shejale’s experience, from a traction point-of-view, campaigns that speak to one’s heart and appeal to human emotions are the most successful.
When it comes to petfluencers... you can love them, you can hate them but just cannot ignore them. “For those who do not like animals much, well, that very fact makes the ad stand out that much more. It's all about what catches the eye and because these Petfluencers grab eyeballs they are pretty influential I'd say,” opined Mitchelle Rozario Jansen, Regional Head - Operations (West), WATConsult.
Dogs with the most Instagram followers worldwide as of October 2017 (in millions): Source
A long-running trend?
The appeal of cute animal moments is undeniable. With a change in the perception of pets and animals in general, Kapany feels that these furballs are “Hukum ka Ikka” when it comes to promote and sell.
While a few experts are of the opinion that until a new trend emerges to capture the minds of our key audiences, petfluencers are the favorite lots.
Mehta adds here, the popularity of petfluencers has given rise to dedicated talent agencies managing petfluencers who manage celebrity pets in India and globally.
Petfluencer profiles are growing on social media and have gained millions of followers; many of these accounts have higher engagement rates with consumers in comparison to many human influencers. This is the new fad that taps into the emotional quotient.
Put an animal like a dog and you already have their attention for that ad in terms of detailed understanding consumption. Driving the brand message home is now a matter of the script, thinks Aditya Gurwara, Managing partner -Services, Terareach. On the other hand, Mitchelle noted that people get stressed, they want to relax, a quick cat search and it's a happy place for them. As long as this happens, this trend is here to stay.
Where to begin?
Bijoor noted that depending on how centrally or peripherally a pet is used in the story-line, the influence, and the ability of the petfluencer differs. Vodafone for one used the pug with centrality and so in many ways, the pug was forced onto the consumer in a rather loving manner.
‘Petfluencers’ would work as long as the brand has the personality to carry it off. Unlike regular influencers or brand ambassadors, for petfluencers there are multiple marketing campaigns necessary to establish an association with the brand. For e.g. the Vodafone pug took time to be established, exactly the same way that the new logo for Airtel took time to start registering with the audience (If I were to take similar examples from the category).
"Animals (dogs and cats) bring a major emotional angle to the video due to the nature of the animal even without doing anything. The connect is more with an audience already in love with animals, owners or otherwise. The difference is the noticeability, with ads not bringing in the retention they used to a major hook can always pull eyes," said Gurwara.
How to create a Petfluencer?
Sustenance, Sustenance, Sustenance!!! Is the mantra that brands need to take on, believes Ashish Rana, Business Head, IdeateLabs. This is not a campaign level strategy that will work, marketing teams need to have a long-term vision while deciding on the petfluencer and it has to be integrated into every campaign over a period of time for it to generate any return for the brand.
According to Rana, “It’s really tough for other brands to take a similar route (which is not the case for either brand ambassadors or influencers). For e.g. look at how many brands a mega star like Shahrukh endorses or for that matter pick any social media influencer and a quick scroll through their timeline will tell you a bunch of brands they have been associated with”.
While Petfluencer campaigns evoke happiness and emotional connect, Mehta feels that marketers need to be cognizant of the fact that not all brands can align with petfluencers.
Petfluencers shouldn’t overshadow the brand essence or affect it in any way. Which is why they can’t ever replace human influencers and they will continue to play an important role.
However, with petfluencers comes a lot of responsibility to protect the sensitivities of the legal issues that may arise. One cannot overlook the challenges that will come with the territory in dealing with animal rights activists and advertising legal issues.
“Don't bring in a pet as an accouterment alone, like a curtain, or a nice looking dining table for instance. Pets do more to your brand than you would imagine they do,” added Bijoor. “I would say, bring in a pet provided you are able to build it into the DNA of the brand.”
Mitchelle and Kapany’s advice to marketers is to keep it to keep the communication simple, genuine and short which resonates the brand’s ultimate messaging. Mitchelle elaborates, "Let the insight flow from them to you and do not use them in an environment that's alien to them, then it loses the meaning. If you listen and look close enough, you'll find the right way to proceed."