PetFoodIndustry.com, the on-line magazine for pet food professionals recently reported under the headline “Pet Food goes to Hollywood” of the latest celebrities getting in line to endorse pet products. The article actually more or less was written for pet food manufacturers as it asked “Could yours be next?” But this is not what I want to discuss here and today. I plan on taking this comment in a little different direction.
As the publication states, “For years, professional athletes, famous actors and musicians have been the traditional favorites to feature in advertisements. As the ad market continues to grow and competition becomes fiercer, marketers have turned to new categories of celebrity spokespersons. A champion racehorse sells pet food in Great Britain. New categories for celebrity endorsers are opening every day as the reach of the media moves closer to home.
One well-used approach at differentiating advertisements is the use of celebrity endorsements. Celebrities are seen as dynamic individuals with likable and attractive qualities. The words and often just the image of a popular person will cause many people to stop and pay attention.”
As advice to pet food manufacturers it recommends: “Linking your pet food brand sales to famous personalities can be heavenly or hellish. The question is: Is it worth the gamble? Marketers have long sought to distract and attract the attention of potential customers who live in a world of ever increasing commercial bombardment. Because of the constant media saturation that most people experience daily, they eventually become numb to standard advertising. The challenge of the advertiser is to find a hook.”
The magazine then gets into the latest scoop of 4 celebrities joining the trend:
“Popular television host and home cooking chef Rachael Ray has launched her own dog food brand named Rachael Ray Nutrish, from Dad's Pet Care Inc., and was our December 2008 cover girl. Ray says her latest venture was inspired by her own dog, Isaboo, and proceeds are to be donated to Rachael's Rescue, an organization the food star founded to help at-risk animals find adoptive homes.
According to Ray's website, Rachael Ray Nutrish includes two varieties of all natural dog food featuring real meat as the first ingredient, Real Chicken & Veggies and Real Beef & Brown Rice. There are no by-products, fillers, artificial flavors or preservatives, the website says; and each recipe contains antioxidant nutrients like vitamin E and selenium to support a healthy immune system; a fiber blend including oatmeal for easy digestion; omega fatty acids, with a dash of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to support healthy skin and a shiny coat; high quality proteins to support healthy organs and lean muscle mass; and calcium for strong bones and healthy teeth.
Cesar Milan, well-known dog behavior specialist and star of National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan, has partnered with Petco to brand "Dog Whisperer" merchandise for dogs, including organic dog food, treats and other products and accessories. Among the products in the line are organic canned and dry dog food, treats, fortified water, liquid supplements, collars and leashes, toys, grooming products, training pads, stain and odor removers, beds, bowls and an instructional series of DVDs. The line is expected to include more than 100 products. Additionally, Petco.com will offer access to an exclusive online dog coaching course personally designed and developed by Millan to instruct owners on raising a happy, healthy and well balanced dog.
Halo, Purely For Pets announced in 2008 that talk show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres has become an owner of the 20-year-old all-natural petfood company. The announcement came as Halo was expanding its product line and retail presence for its line of petfood and pet care products in the US market. The company has expanded distribution with major retail chains such as Whole Foods and Petco, as well as independent pet specialty and natural outlets. The expansion was designed to extend Halo's lineup of all natural petfood and holistic pet care products, according to the company. Halo has also overhauled its famous recipe for its flagship Spot's Stew, adding more protein and new flavors. Tests prove even the finickiest cats like it over leading brands, claims the petfood company. A new product, Halo's Spots Stew Pate, has increased protein levels and is finely ground to satisfy cats who hate too much texture in their food.
Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSLO) announced in March the launch of a multiplatform pets initiative with www.marthastewart.com/pets as a cornerstone of the program. The website provides fresh ideas and information related to pet care and the joys of animal companionship, including a blog from the perspective of Martha's French Bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey, called "The Daily Wag".
The primary sponsor for the new website is Nestlé Purina PetCare and its super premium pet food brand Purina ONE. According to MRI, the Martha Stewart audience includes 9.7 million dog and cat owners who share their home with a collective 21.7 million dogs and cats; they purchase more than 200 million pounds of pet food each month.
Stewart had this to say: "I have been passionate about pets all my life and over the years have been fortunate to share my home with many dogs, cats and canaries. I understand why people consider their pets to be members of their family and am delighted to be offering a website, television programming and other content that celebrate that special relationship and help consumers to better care for and enjoy their pets."
Nestlé Purina and Purina ONE will be featured on the new website through proprietary content, a link to Purina ONE's website—www.purinaone.com—and through online advertisements. As part of its multimillion dollar agreement with MSLO, Nestlé Purina and Purina ONE also will be the subject of two special segments on upcoming episodes of The Martha Stewart Show. Stewart recently visited the St. Louis, Missouri, USA, headquarters of Nestlé Purina to film one of the segments.”
So here you have it. Packaged Facts in my comment “Pet food recall: Have a disaster supercharge pet food sales” concluded that part of the latest revenue increases in the pet food industry had to do with “Celebrity branding is also becoming a bigger factor in the pet food category, with Ellen DeGeneres, Cesar Millan and Rachael Ray entering the market last year.”
My question is now, would and will you purchase pet nutrition just because it is endorsed by a Hollywood celebrity?
I would like to hope that you tell me “not really or definitely only after I have analyzed the products in further detail and came to the conclusion that I am doing the right thing for my pet”.
In nearest future I am going to take a closer look at some of these products and will share with you my conclusion whether or not they are worth the hype. Quite a long while ago, right when it happened, I recall taking a brief and first shot at Rachael’s food. I also remember throwing in a few comment lines here and there about celebrity endorsed pet nutrition, unfortunately not always too favorable. I am going to revisit this again, maybe things have changed. I am doubtful though and do have my own opinion when I hear about Martha’s sponsor. The bottom line is simple. As I had mentioned in “And just when did Rachael become a pet food expert?”, “Because, Ellen, let me tell you: Making it look good on the outside seems to be all what counts to the masses of super market shopping pet owners.”
Credit where credit is due, if the product is a healthy and good product, then it should be sold in great numbers. If a celebrity can help this cause and improve on it’s success, then go for it. But as I asked in the past of the star of home cooking: “Rachael: Just promise us one thing: Make sure it’s all healthy and good for our pets. I hate to see this turning into just another marketing gimmick. We got plenty of these in the pet food industry already. I plead: Don’t earn your bucks at the expense of our pets' well being.”
Because one statement made by PetFoodIndustry.com bothers me quite a bit and that is “Marketers have long sought to distract ….. the attention of potential customers who live in a world of ever increasing commercial bombardment” Sure, it relates to the rest of the marketing, the non celebrity enhanced one. But does it really only refer to the marketing or is there more behind it, like distract from the quality of the product?
Stay tuned for part 2 with a closer look at the products mentioned above.