Puppies Getting Paid: Inside Influencer Marketing for the Pet Industry

It’s been an upsetting week for some in the pet community. With the inauguration behind us, the Obama’s have moved out of the White House and along with them goes their two adorable dogs, Bo and Sunny. Both Portuguese water dogs, these two have stolen the hearts of an entire country. Regardless of politics, it’s a fact that these two are super cute.

Bo, 8 years old, is the one wearing the white socks and was the First Dog of the United States (FDOTUS, if you will). And Sunny, age 4, is all black and enjoyed such pastimes as being adorable… and pooping in the White House, according to Michelle Obama.

People have been paying tribute to the pups on Twitter all week.

The rise of pet influencers

The popularity of the First Dogs isn’t a one-off. After the success of ‘mommy bloggers’ – a veritable force that unexpectedly stormed the internet with lifestyle Instagram accounts and opinions galore – follows pet bloggers.

In the pet industry, there are two types of bloggers. Those whose love of animals has inspired them to write about it online, establishing themselves as pet experts. Our friends Darlene Arden, Amy Burkert from GoPetFriendly, and Judy Helm Wright all boast more than 10,000 social media followers.

And then there are actual pets who blog.

You heard us right. Pet influencer marketing has gone beyond your best friend’s Instagram account for her cat. Forming itself as an entire lucrative industry, this type of social influence provides a viable way to make a living for a lucky few.

“Human influencers might say something off-brand or that offends the brand, but dogs are on message at all times,” Loni Edwards of The Dog Agency, a full-service pet talent agency, told Fast Company. “People like pet content, and there’s higher ability of going viral. You have all the abilities of influencer marketing, plus factors that you don’t have for humans.”

Some notable pet influencers are Marnie the Dog (who has as many Instagram followers are celebrity Kristen Bell), Doug the Pug, and of course, Grumpy Cat.


How brands and retailers work with pet influencers

There are many ways pet influencers collaborate with brands. Influencer marketing is a relatively newly defined field, so the rule book has yet to be written. However, there are a few tried-and-true methods to strike a win-win deal with a dog who blogs.


Product showcase on social media

What’s cuter than a dog using a product? We’ll tell you: nothing. Product showcases are one classic way influencers work with brands, and the same rings true for pet influencers. Do you make dog collars, leashes, or toys? Reach out to the owner and inquire about landing your product on their Instagram feed. In this sort of collaboration, the brand generally pays for the post.

There are tons of great examples of a product being showcased or sold by pets. Check out this Budweiser commercial where a puppy, a handful of Clydesdale horses, and a wolf manage to sell us all beer.

Oh, and be sure to know the changing rules of Instagram sponsorship and copyrighting.


Sponsored blog post

This one’s taken most famously from the food bloggers playbook. A brand pays an influencer to write about their product – “I used [this brand’s] blender to make some amazing hummus!” In our case, highlighting how a product can be used for a pet owner is a great way to begin to make a brand indispensable in a (sometimes unexpected) industry.

“You’re essentially merging the two biggest trends — social and pet memes — and tying that with branding,” said Speakr founder and CEO Marco Hansell. “It’s the perfect formula.”

This great post on blog Pawsitively Pets sponsored by Bounty is a great example. The post explains why Bounty’s sheets should become a staple in your pet care routine. Clean up any mess your pet throws at you with their paper towel.


Event appearances

It’s just a good day for everyone. Celebrity pets have begun popping up at events all around the country. Marnie the Dog travels around LA and poses with celebrities she passes on the street, while Grumpy Cat has appeared on Good Morning America and The Today Show.

Scaled down to benefit a small business, local pet influencers can get paid to make an appearance at pet shops. While studying the effect of animals in the workplace, Professor Paul Zak, neuroeconomics professor at Claremont Graduate University in California, says “It is not just ‘nice’ or ‘fun’ to have dogs [around], it is an effective way to improve productivity and profits.” The same can be said for your customers. Dogs are good for your customer’s brains, and ultimately, for your sales.