Pet Holiday

Holiday Pet Trends

Deck the Halls with Paws of Holly

When it comes to holiday shopping, one in five pet owners will spend more on their pet than on their mother-in-law! I mean, can you blame them? After all, we are talking about four-legged furry friends who show unconditional love year-round. More than two-thirds of pet owners consider their pet to be a family member, and owners are placing toys, treats, accessories, and clothing under the tree for their pets every year.

In 2013, the U.S. pet industry expenditures totaled an impressive $55.72 billion, and according to the American Pet Owner’s Association, owners spend an average of $5 billion on pets during the holiday season alone. Retailers and brands that are savvy to holiday pet trends are using it to form deeper relationships with their customers and communities.

So, how can retailers and brands take advantage of holiday pet shopping behavior? First, retailers should look to time-tested merchandising techniques — placing items strategically in-store to capture the “impulse buy.” Travel-sized items and treats placed at the register would make “purrfect” stocking stuffers. Additionally, stores can create “impulse alleys” by grouping seasonal items together in high-traffic areas.

Next, retailers can generate market buzz by engaging in preplanned holiday sales or events. Consumers will already be approaching the holiday season with the intent to purchase, and temporary price reductions or limited-time deals can help capture dollar share. To entice consumers into the store, retailers can employ techniques such as extended store hours and lucrative giveaways. For pet retailers, hosting an event that pet owners can enjoy with their pets is a unique way to capture the attention of shoppers while creating a memorable experience. Not only does the consumer have an enjoyable time with a loyal companion, but these types of events can also help retailers create a bond between the pet owner and the store.

From the brand perspective, producing holiday-themed packaging for treats and other products has proven to be very successful. Creating the impression that a product has a short availability period, limited-edition packaging can make a product seem more exclusive, and give consumers an extra “nudge” toward purchasing it. However, brands should play into the holiday cheer strategically, however – a Christmas-themed bag of dog bones may spur a consumer to purchase outside their regular buying cycle, but a 20 lb. bag of Christmas-packaging dog food may not. And with any limited-edition item, brands need to consider time from manufacturer to shelf, planning appropriately to ensure that the product is on-shelf during the height of holiday shopping.

One of the main brand benefits of a limited-edition item, outside of increased sales, is increased brand loyalty. Limited-edition items make “new” products out of items that may have been on the market for years, if not decades. Consumers are given the illusion of choice — even if they don’t buy the limited-edition item, it looks as if the brand has offered them something new, timely, and unique. This helps generate brand loyalty, and helps encourage repeat purchases.

Beyond in-store and at-shelf, brands and retailers can further nurture relationships with consumers during the holidays via social media. More specifically, social media not only lets brands and retailers promote their products, it also creates a venue for posting things that their followers can relate to. For example, a proven way to engage followers is to have them submit photos, and during the holidays, brands can “theme” the request, asking consumers to submit a cute photo of their pet in a holiday outfit. A photo that resonates well with other followers may encourage additional photo posts and online engagement, and, in turn, this can increase the followers’ sense of belonging to the brand’s social media communities. This, ultimately, will cause consumers to become more loyal to the brand and increases the likelihood of future product purchases.

The holiday pet-shopping trend has grown tremendously in the past 20 years, and there is no sign of it slowing down for this holiday season. As it becomes more acceptable for animals to receive presents during the holidays, more and more pet owners are adopting the tradition into their own homes. And, in turn, we expect that more brands and retailers will react to this trend, adjusting their marketing tactics to align with the “paw-pulor” demand.

For other non-holiday pet marketing trends, Made in the USA is becoming a powerful sub-segment of the pet marketplace.

Partnership Relationship

A guide to the client-agency relationship

Not long ago, I attended a presentation by Pat Doody. Pat is one of the founders of Wong Doody, a very successful Seattle-based advertising agency. Pat is an entertaining and passionate speaker. And a few of his major points, catch phrases if you will, really stuck with me. “Love your client like you love your dog.” That may sound a bit silly, but no disrespect is meant.

Too many times I’ve heard an advertising professional say, “This would be a great business if it weren’t for the clients.” What a crock! We wouldn’t have a business without our clients! So in the spirit of giving thanks, I offer thanks to all past, present, and future clients. I try to put myself in the clients’ shoes to appreciate their own challenges. We ad guys aren’t the only ones who have it rough. So it’s important that all of our colleagues at Martino Flynn do their best to love and embrace our clients.

Pat also described the 51%/49% client-agency relationship. Advertisers often talk about the client-agency relationship as being a partnership. But, in reality, clients always have the upper hand. They always have at least 51% of the vote. It’s definitely a partnership, just not an entirely equal one. This also means that clients have a lot of responsibility for the work we do for them. And that’s fine. Great, collaborative clients definitely make us—and the work—much better.

We always respect client suggestions and ideas—even though creative types can occasionally be prone to an epic eye roll when hearing that the idea came from the client. So Pat’s stance is that you should always entertain clients’ ideas—and then give them better ones, too. Clients need to be heard and respected. And lo and behold, sometimes clients’ ideas can be brilliant. As collaborative partners (51%/49%), we should always embrace great ideas, irrespective of their origin.

Healthcare Marketing

The Evolving Role of the Community Pharmacist

Would you ever consider taking your child to the pharmacist instead of the doctor for health care? If you’re like one-quarter of parents, then the answer to that question is yes. This is just one of many facts that demonstrate the new role of the modern day pharmacist. Today’s pharmacists are more than just dispensaries; they’re helping to fill a crucial role in health care.

So what’s driving this change? One factor is the rising cost of healthcare. With the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, many consumers experienced changes in their insurance benefits and/or office co-pays. Pharmacists provide a low-cost–or often no-cost–option for patients who are facing a minor illness or ailment. In response to the increase in patients who are turning to pharmacists for health care, community pharmacies are providing more advanced training for their staff members. It is estimated that more than 150,000 pharmacists are now trained to give vaccinations, up from just 40,000 in 2007.

Another significant factor in the growing role of community pharmacists is ease of access and convenience. Nearly 3,000 retail and walk-in clinics are expected to open by 2015, providing easy access points to healthcare, and most consumers in urban areas live within 1.4 miles of a community pharmacy or clinic. Instead of a special trip to the doctor’s office, or even a visit to the ER, consumers can receive medical advice while they pick up bread or milk. And insurance providers benefit from this increased access as well, as consumers often receive preventative care at retail clinics, which can decrease future patient hospitalizations. Pharmacists are also key to ensuring medication compliance, which, in turn, can reduce future medical costs.

Pharmacists are also viewed as a trusted source of information, ranked second behind nurses in terms of honesty and ethical standards. With more than 80% of consumers preferring to treat minor ailments with OTC medications first, pharmacists are well-poised to fill the role of healthcare advisor, providing actionable and trusted medication recommendations.

So how can brands take advantage of the changing role of community pharmacists? First, recognize that with the uptick in consumer traffic, retail outlets will likely increase the in-store real estate of their pharmacy areas. This additional space will allow for more opportunities to place marketing messages, and educate consumers on products. Brands can also leverage ailment seasonality to cross-promote non-medicinal products. For example, a lip balm brand would be smart to partner with an OTC cough/cold medication during the winter months, or a sunblock could work well with an allergy medication during the warmer spring season. Lastly, OTC medications can be successful with influencer outreach programs aimed at pharmacists. Identifying common categories that consumers ask pharmacists advice on, such as respiratory illnesses, can be used by a brand to help position its products as an easy solution to a typical problem in the eyes of pharmacists.

To learn more about Martino Flynn’s healthcare practice and healthcare influencer marketing programs, please contact us at 585.421.0100.


Augmented Advertising: Using Augmented Reality to Strengthen Your Brand

Now more than ever, augmented reality (AR) is gaining traction in the world of advertising. Yes, I am referring to the Star Wars-esque technology that virtually enhances and superimposes technology onto the physical world. However, this is no Jedi mind trick; AR is being used to create more engaging experiences for consumers.

The technology that enables augmented reality has been around for years. In fact, you are exposed to it more frequently than you may realize. Do you ever sit down on a Sunday afternoon to watch football? Well, AR creates that ever-present yellow first down line. However, it wasn’t until recent years that advertisers began incorporating this technology.

Despite being the latest craze, for a while, augmented reality had a tough time “finding work” in mainstream applications. It ran the risk of fading into oblivion, but considering that 58% of Americans now own a smartphone, according to Pew Research*, finding engaging uses for AR was inevitable.

Brands such as IKEA and Pepsi have managed to utilize the technology in practical and creative ways, showcasing the true potential of augmented reality. IKEA tied the technology into its product catalog, giving customers the ability to see what the furniture would look like in their homes. Pepsi, on the other hand, dove into guerilla marketing by replacing ad space at a bus stop in London with a screen that had a live feed of what was happening on the opposite side of the glass, convincing people inside the shelter that it was merely a window. What made this so exciting was the fact that AR was used to superimpose different actions onto the live footage, such as an alien invasion or a tiger that escaped from the zoo. Both brands have received positive feedback from customers, making it less risky for other brands to explore AR. Having said that, there are a few important factors that must be considered before diving headfirst into this technology:

1. Don’t make it about the technology; make it about the customer.

Augmented reality is very exciting; there is no denying that. But what makes it so great is being able to experience it. Developing this technology and highlighting its capabilities is cool in theory, but customers will tune out quickly if they are not included in the fun. It’s like watching your friend play a video game and not being able to play yourself; you lose interest.

2. Use augmented reality only when it will strengthen your brand image.

To build on the point made earlier, augmented reality should be used in ways that will benefit the brand. There are some brands that will have nothing to gain from using this technology to promote themselves. But if it is possible to use it in a creative way that benefits both customers and the brand, then you’re on to something.

3. You can’t replace a good marketing idea.

Augmented reality opens a new door to advertisers, but it takes a good idea to walk in. The IKEA and Pepsi campaigns received positive feedback because the technology supported a sound marketing strategy. As cool as this technology is, without a good marketing idea, it’s pointless.

With augmented reality starting to gain traction in the advertising world, it will be interesting to see how it evolves and what new ideas arise. Who knows, perhaps AR is the advertising tactic of the future. One thing is for sure: when working with technology like this, it is imperative to find ideas that do more. Otherwise, why bother?


Pepsi “Unbelievable” Bus Shelter Video:



A look at holiday shopping trends: What’s “in store” for 2014

Everyone loves a good bargain, especially during the holidays when the pressure to find the “perfect gift” is at its peak. By now, many consumers have planned their shopping strategies and it’s not just about getting the best deal, it’s also about how efficient or expedient they can be. Retailers, of course, are maximizing all the data they’ve been mining in hopes that they can significantly increase revenue.

Looking back on 2013, there are a few things to remember:

  • The shopping season was very short — only 27 days. Most shopping seasons are longer, including this year’s — which is music to any retailer’s ears.
  • Black Friday’s importance is diminishing in lieu of a broader period of savings (starting on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and going straight through to Cyber Monday).
  • Mobile shopping realized a huge increase in 2013, accounting for 14% of total online sales, with a peak of 26% on Black Friday.
  • Tablets outperformed smartphones by converting at a much higher rate. Smartphones were primarily used for immediacy — to check prices and availability — while tablets were used more often in making actual purchases.
  • Social media played more of a role as an influencer in 2013 than in previous years and even though referral clicks logged in at about 2%, a whopping 36% of consumers said that they consulted social media for a good portion of their holiday purchases.

Tactics aside, one of the most valuable strategies for a retailer to employ is to make sure that ads and emails are mobile responsive. Consumers want and expect this, yet many retailers still ignore using this format.

In short, mobile phone use makes reviewing/purchasing quicker, more efficient, and easier due to the device’s ability to pinpoint the best current sales and a product’s or service’s availability. There is no question that smartphones have had a positive effect on the in-store/retail industry. It is important for every retailer to make sure that all communications — whether it’s an ad, e-blast, sale, new product promotion, etc., are mobile responsive and optimized for the best viewing experience.

Looking at 2014 and beyond, “omnichanneling,” a term used to define the many interchangeable paths to purchase, will likely be the norm. Customers can comparison shop, order, and return in several ways, and that is exactly what they are doing; so it is more than a good idea to have a seamless customer experience, it is essential for retailers.

And even though consumers will still be using cash and credit cards for purchases in 2015, mobile payments will probably rise. According to Forrester Research, they will reach $90 billion in the next few years.

So how do retailers navigate the complex and ever-changing tides of marketing/sales?

  • Communicate often and keep messaging consistent across all channels.
  • Continuously monitor what consumers respond to — buying habits change over time — as consumer insights are invaluable.
  • Create a seamless and enjoyable customer experience throughout the entire purchasing cycle — make things easy for your customers.
  • Know your customer and be a good listener — read those reviews, both positive and negative, and respond to them.
  • Keep social media promotions relevant and timely.

The future looks bright for those willing to adapt and be agile. Consumers may change their buying habits and strategies, but one thing remains the same over time, they want to have a good experience, and when they do, they share it with the world. Just remember, the reverse is also true.

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