It Pays to be Cute
January 12, 2018
It Pays to be Cute
If I look to the right of my MacBook screen, there is a puppy. And not just any puppy. It’s a Husky puppy—tan, white and fluffy, pacing back and forth across the balcony at Barokas. It’s only my fourth day at the agency, as I recently moved from Milwaukee to Seattle to take this cool job. There’s something to be said for an office that welcomes cute, furry animals filled with unconditional love and an unjaded delight for life. It makes getting out of bed for work a little easier.
“Cute dog” seems to be a theme at Barokas, with the CEO’s beloved bulldog Mack front-and-center as the agency’s official mascot. I haven’t met Mack yet, but he seems like an upstanding guy. Bulldogs in general have a certain je ne sais quoi—distinguished overall, yet rough around the edges—my type of dog.
All this immersion into cute dog overload got me thinking about how animals, dogs specifically, are used to sell brands. They’re often positioned as relatable, undeniable sources of happiness and positivity. After all, a puppy is maybe the least controversial thing on the planet. And hey, in an age when Pepsi lets Kendall Jenner monetize profound moments of contemporary black activism for the sake of selling carbonated sugar…we need puppies.
In the era of “celebrity dogs,” experts say the desire for your pet to become famous is pretty instinctive and a result of basic psychology. It roots from our yearning to connect with other people, but dogs sort of act as buffers. A cute dog is a universal, pressure-free way for people to connect.
While this isn’t anything groundbreaking, using dogs as a means for human (and brand) interaction has become increasingly significant. For decades, dogs have allowed countless companies to create a safe space through cheerful logos and commercials, but the influencer phenomenon has heightened this to a level where real dogs (ok, their owners) are making serious cash through social media sponsorships. Businesses can create dog brand ambassadors, and who doesn’t want Norm the Pug to love their product? Who knew that dogs could have so much PR cachet?
I used to work with a client who invested a lot of money into influencers, including dogs. Dogs with one million followers were paid thousands to play in state parks, frolic among fields and even snowmobile through tranquil winter landscapes. Of course, this was all documented through the owner’s sharp eye, a professional Nikon camera and a series of hashtags and shout outs specifically outlined in the contract. From an analytics perspective, I would see spikes in followers in conjunction with these sponsored posts, not to mention, a ton of organic engagement driving brand awareness.
According to Mashable, some of these doggies can make up to $15,000 per Instagram post. It turns out, being cute is pretty lucrative.
Barokas recently demonstrated its own dog influencer success through Furbo, a pet camera with treat-tossing capabilities that allows owners to keep an eye on their pups and calm them down when they’re alone. Twenty-five influencer partnerships reached an estimated audience of 1,859,100 and generated 46 posts praising this new wave of doggie technology.
But, it’s more than being cute. Sure, all dogs are fun to look at, but there’s a lot of behind-the-scenes action and strategy that makes these pups so marketable. These high-profile dogs establish a persona to build followings and snag sponsorships and media hits. For example, Potato McTater dressed as Hillary Clinton on the TODAY Show for Halloween and makes political statements on Instagram. He’s also been sponsored by Bark Box, natural pet product lines and a bourbon company (questionable).
The bottom line is, an established influencer, whether a human or human’s best friend, can snag a brand sponsorship through a large following and strategic messaging reflected in their content. It’s up to the brand, though, or a brand’s PR agency (cough, Barokas, cough) to select the right influencer as a partner to drive awareness. And, chances are, there’s probably a dog for the job.