Partnership Strategies Winning in the Pet Food Space
In order to monitor successful campaigns geared towards the high-end audience, considered brands have:
- A higher product price range of roughly $50+
- Minimum of 75% of their audience over 36 years old (average homeowner age in USA)(1)
Successful campaigns will be defined by available data such as website traffic, and social media views and engagements.
Celebrity and affiliate marketing are common for American pet food brands with roughly 50% of brands engaging in this strategy.
(i) Leverage celebrities with pets, they are keen to be the face of pet food brands.
(ii) Build a long-term partnership with a celebrity. Most brands are owned by celebrities, not partnering with them.
One long-term partnership (more than 1 campaign) is the most effective growth strategy. Badlands Ranch grew steadily by 57% while Petco and Halo Pets saw decreases & high fluctuations in traffic with shorter partnerships.
(i) Work with a partner who wants to actively post about the brand on their top channel (ie. Instagram).
(ii) Move away from organic-style content for celebrities, more tailored editorial content performs better.
(iii) Leverage Paid Search as a channel where fans will already be searching for your partners name.
(iv) Have your partner be the voice of your email marketing, as if they are emailing a friend.
Many, shorter partnerships are effective for social media metric improvement (views and engagements), Halo Pets saw 82% of their average views and engagements from partner content on their feed.
(i) Work with many mid-tier (100K-500K follower) influencers on Instagram and TikTok.
(ii) Choose creators who have strong bonds with their pets and are often in the content with them.
(iii) Work with influencers whose homes are featured in sponsored content for viewers to identify with.
(iv) Give creators discount codes to incentivise trying the product and giving viewers a reason to go to the site.
Keep celebrity partnership content concentrated on a few platforms and channels. When Petco’s Snoop Dogg campaign launched, they saw -1% traffic to the site.
(i) Prioritize creating very specific content for just TikTok or Instagram instead of spreading the campaign thin across many channels.
(ii) For luxury brands, collaborate with luxury celebrities. Snoop Dogg was used in an “affordable” marketing campaign which doesn’t align with his image as a mega famous rapper who loves luxury.
(iii) Focus more on the exclusive content your partner is curating for your brand as opposed to deals.
Goal-Oriented Decision Making
If your goal is to grow web traffic:
(i) Focus on one celebrity partnership on a long-term basis.
(ii) Integrate the celebrity cross-channel as your voice on organic channels, paid channels and email.
If your goal is to grow awareness on social media:
(i) Focus on many (10+) short-term influencer partnerships with creators who have 100K+ followers.
(ii) Keep partnership content organic on Instagram and TikTok.
In the saturated US pet food market*, celebrity or influencer partnerships are common.
~52% of brands have affiliate or celebrity partnership marketing.
- Celebrities passionate about animals are keen to be the face of something pet-related.
- The pet food audience is no stranger to partnerships or celeb brand ownership.
- Celebrity involvement in the pet food space leans towards brand ownership as opposed to partnerships.
Let’s dive into partnership examples and examine the outcomes of their successes and failures.
Badlands Ranch is actor Katherine Heigl’s dog food brand. Since launching in June 2022, the brand has seen +57% web traffic growth.
We’ll dive into how Heigl is leveraging her audience as the face of the brand.
Halo Pets is a dog and cat food brand co-owned by Ellen Degeneres. They have seen 145% web traffic growth YoY.
We’ll dive into their approach where they do not highlight Ellen Degeneres but focus on many different creators.
Petco is a popular pet retailer who partnered with Snoop Dogg in June 2023.
We’ll review what did and didn’t work for their campaign, as the retailer faces a -3% decrease in web traffic YoY.
*An exception to this rule has been made for Petco due to their major celebrity brand partnership worth pulling insights from.
Most of Badlands Ranch’s posts don’t feature Heigl…
…But posts featuring her generate 95% of the avg. views and engagements.
*On Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook
YouTube omitted because Badlands Ranch only posts videos with no date timestamps.
Prioritize long term celebrity partner posts on Instagram.
- Use the collaborative post feature with your partner on Instagram.
- Show the celebrity with their pet to build relevance.
- TikTok is not the best platform for luxury good celebrity campaigns. Badlands Ranch’s top post received a lot of comments about how it’s unaffordable.
Have your partner share brand content on Instagram.
Heigl made 10 posts on Instagram from Sept. ‘22 to Aug ‘23, generating 236K engagements for the brand.
Here are tactics that worked for Heigl’s brand posts:
- Show your partner using the product, or with their pets.
- Maintain clean and editorial imagery; celebrity content doesn't need to appear as organic as what you'd expect for an influencer post.
Choose 1-2 channels to promote the celebrity partnership.
89% of Badlands Ranch’s budget went towards ads featuring Heigl.
- Badlands Ranch spend $484K on Paid Search ($472K) and Display ads ($12K).
- Use Paid Search ads to target people already looking up your celebrity partner. Educate them about their invested interests outside of their craft (ie. actor Katherine Heigl’s passion for animals).
- Keep mention of the partner subtle. Badlands Ranch experiments across ads by mentioning her name in the headline, callouts and description but never more than once in a single ad.
Use intentional landing pages to educate prospects on your product.
- Assume that Paid Search viewers are lower funnel and already know about your partner. Use this landing page to sell primarily, and then educate further down the page.
- Display landing pages aim to educate viewers. Create videos where your partner dissects the product and its difference amongst competition.
- yahoo.com (48%)
- answers.yahoo.com (11%)
- people.com (10%)
- yahoo.com/health (6%)
- newsmax.com (5%)
- Target forums like Yahoo Answers or Yahoo Health where people are likely to go when they have questions about pets.
Make your partner the face & voice of your emails.
Badlands Ranch sent 179 emails from Sept. ‘22 - Aug. ‘23.
- Badlands Ranch emails are written from the voice of Heigl, where she not only shares insights about her pets but also delves into company and marketing topics.
- Other than a few banner images, email content is written in standard text form, as though receiving an email from a friend.
- Create content that provides value for the reader beyond your product. Heigl shares food tips, like a quick pumpkin ice cream that will keep dogs busy while they eat it.
Is having a celebrity as the face of your brand a successful strategy?
Badlands Ranch has seen web traffic growth of +57% from the first half to the second half of the year.
Some reasons their strategy has been successful include:
- Having Heigl be active about posting brand content on her channels while also being the voice of email marketing.
- Optimizing Heigl’s brand posts to maximize reach by moving away from organic or heavily edited graphic posts to more tailored editorial content.
- Being targeted with ads on Paid Search and Display only. The brand can reach people who are already actively interested in Heigl and searching for her.
Non-partner posts represent 96% of Halo’s content…
…But partner content represents 82% of their avg. views + engagements.
*On Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Facebook
Prioritize partner posts on Instagram & TikTok.
Instagram generated the highest engagement for partner posts.
Partner with mid-tier* content creators.
*Creators with 100K-500K followers
- Even though Ellen Degeneres is a co-owner of Halo Pets, she is never mentioned in their strategy. And she never posts or mentions the brand in return.
- Work with creators who are very involved with their pets in their content. For example, focus on accounts that feature both owner and pet, as opposed to an account that just films their pet doing cute things.
Highlight owner & pet relationships with product content.
- Top-performing content:
(ii) Ensures the creator’s home is visible. If you want to reach a higher-end audience, the viewer should resonate with the setting.
(iii) Isn’t subtle about product placement. Make sure packaging is clearly featured in creator posts.
All partners have discount codes and direct viewers to the Halo Pets website to purchase.
Views 235K | Engagement 1K
Views 171K | Engagement 6K
Keep partnership posts on organic channels.
<1% of Halo’s ads are partner content.
- Halo Pets spent $730K+ on ads from September 2022 to August 2023, only $2.1K of the budget was spent on ads featuring celebrity partners.
- On Facebook and Instagram, Halo Pets promoted a social cause campaign with the Turner couple to incentivize viewers to post pictures with their pets and tag Halo. For anyone sharing pictures, the company donates $10 up to $50K to a dog foundation.
- Kourtney Turner posted the ad on Instagram, generating 7.5K engagements. But, the campaign only generated 66 posts from audience viewers across Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
Is having many major partners representing your brand successful?
While Halo Pets saw 145% growth over the past 2 years (from September 2021 - August 2023) they have seen a -21% decrease in web traffic from the first half to the second half of the year.
Spikes in web traffic are roughly aligned with sponsored posts.
- Working with major content creators provides Halo Pets with quality content that directs viewers to their site.
- Halo Pet’s owned social media engagement is relatively low and being able to use partner content on their feed helps improve engagement and view metrics.
- Working with the Turners (a sports celebrity couple) for a social initiative campaign wasn’t successful as it didn’t land with the audience and generated very few posts.
- Not leveraging Ellen Degeneres’ audience may be a missed opportunity to expand reach in a low-effort way.
Petco prioritizes a non-partner organic content strategy.
Partner posts only represent about 16% of the avg. views + engagements.
*On Instagram, TikTok, YouTube and Facebook
Petco’s only successful* partner campaign in the past year features Snoop Dogg.
*Success as defined by available metrics like social media views and engagements.
Petco’s campaign saw high average views + engagements on TikTok.
Make organic content that provides a unique view of your celebrity partner.
Snoop Dogg trains his dog in this video, showing the audience an intimate side of his relationship with his dog.
Leverage YouTube and OTT for celebrity advertising.
Petco’s top spend was a 15-second video that features Snoop Dogg imitating his dog’s point of view and how Petco makes their lives easier and better.
Petco sent 2 emails about Snoop Dogg (less than 1% of their email content).
- People read an email with content about Snoop Dogg’s pet picks more than an email about getting $10 off a purchase.
- Celebrity email content should:
(i) Feature unique insights into their routines or choices for their pets.
(ii) Feature images of the celebrity and include verbiage (such as “by Snoop Dogg”) that indicates your partner created something for the brand, even if it is just a list.
Was this campaign successful?
The Petco Snoop Dogg campaign launched in June 2023, a month that saw -1% less website traffic to the site but a 4% increase in returning users MoM. Petco didn’t experience any social following growth after the launch (0% MoM).
Some reasons the campaign may have not been uber successful include:
- The messaging of the campaign is that Petco is affordable but audience members may not be able to relate to that coming from one of the most famous rappers in the world (who is privy to luxury).
- All marketing came from the brand’s side except one Petco and Snoop Dogg collaboration post on Instagram, missing out on an opportunity to reach his audience in an impactful way.
Instagram views are not available at this time.
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