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Celebrity Influence

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It’s been in advertising and marketing for as long as most of us can remember: celebrities endorsing, or producing their own, products.

In recent years, Tiger Woods has been synonymous with Nike, William Shatner with Priceline and Michael Jordan with Gatorade.

For more than 50 years, celebrities and personalities have endorsed different products. Why has it lasted for so long? Because it works, and it’s something that as celebrities begin entering the pet industry with their own products, pet retailers should take advantage of.

In June 2012, the Journal of Advertising Research produced an article by Anita Elberse, an associate professor of Harvard Business School, and Jeroen Verleun, a Barclays Capital analyst, titled, “The Economic Value of Celebrity Endorsements.” The study was done to see how celebrity endorsements impact sales. One of the conclusions they found: “In general, enlisting the help of celebrity endorsers pays off.”

Now, celebrities don’t always just endorse products, especially not as much in the pet industry. Instead, many of them have started their own pet companies, or worked with established manufacturers in the business to create signature lines, because of their love for pets.

A perfect example of this would be Kristy Hinze-Clark, the creator/creative director for Legitimutt, who is also an Australian model, actress and television host. She has also appeared in Sports Illustrated as well as the Victoria’s Secret catalogue.

“I started Legitimutt because of my love for my dogs,” Hinze-Clark said. “I had always wanted to have a company based around pets and their care. I noticed that there was a gap in the market for high-quality, USA-made pet goods, and when I was brainstorming names one afternoon and came up with Legitimutt, my husband said that I had to go with it. Hence, Legitimutt was born.”

Celebrities and Their Products

Hinze-Clark said one of the biggest questions she gets asked is, “Why do a pet line?”

“Most models that come from my field go into lingerie or swimwear or clothing,” Hinze-Clark said. “Well, it was something different and fun. After being in the fashion industry for over 20 years, I wanted to do something that had a sense of humor while still utilizing my many years of experience.”

Halo, Purely for Pets is co-owned by Ellen DeGeneres, who believes that, “If you’re going to have pets you should treat them like you’d treat yourself. I don’t mean you should treat them to new shoes or a fancy car—I am talking about the basics; a nice bed, fun toys and good food.”

DeGeneres founded the company while finding the perfect food for her dog.

“A few years ago I was looking for some pet food for one of my dogs who was allergic to everything, honestly, even his own fur,” DeGeneres said. “I tried everything, our vet tried everything and finally I found a little company that had the perfect food for him. It’s called Halo, Purely for Pets.

“So, because I think Halo is incredible, I decided to become part owner in hopes that all animals have the chance to be the healthiest they can be. And I’m anxious to spread the word so that everybody knows about Halo.”

Rocky Keever is the president and founder of DOG for DOG, a store with a simple mission statement: “For every item sold we will donate one to a dog in need.”

“It started because my team and I were hosting rescue groups at my stores, The Dog Bakery, and we couldn’t seem to help enough dogs,” Keever said. “So one day, I decided that the only way to truly make an impact was to involve everyone. I truly believe people are giving by nature and just need a convenient way to do so. Thus, DOG for DOG was born.

“My business partner, Scott Ragan, and myself have partnered with some pretty amazing people. Michael Buble and his wife, Luisana Lopilato, Chelsea Handler and Snoop Dogg are all investors for the DOG for DOG movement. It is pretty exciting helping dogs in need with the team that we have.”

In the Beginning

Before the article, “The Economic Value of Celebrity Endorsements,” was printed, most advertisers and marketers said celebrity endorsements pay off.

Where did these ideas come from?Originally, a mathematical manuscript was written by mathematician Manfred Kochen and political scientist Ithiel de Sola Pool called, “Contacts and Influences.” It was published in 1978 and formally articulated the mechanics of social networks. The manuscript didn’t answer all questions, as there were some about the degree of connectedness, and there were still questions about networks, which included the number of degrees of separation in actual social networks.

Stanley Milgram, a Ph.D. graduate from Harvard, who later taught at Harvard and Yale, would go on to produce the famous Milgram experiments. In 1967, Milgram lead experiments called the “The Small World Problem” in the magazine, Psychology Today. It is more popularly known today as the “Six Degrees of Separation” theory or the “Kevin Bacon game.”

In 2000, Malcolm Gladwell came out with a book called, “The Tipping Point,” which seeks to explain how ideas, products, messages and behaviors spread in culture. In the book, he covers “The Law of the Few,” which cites Milgram’s experiments in the small world problem, but it discusses that there is a small but compelling group of individuals who are influential. This group consists of several groups of people, including celebrities.

Since celebrities are influential people, Keever said one of the important aspects to their celebrity partners is that none of them are tasked with selling products.

“They are all tasked with helping spread the word on how we can all help dogs in need,” Keever said. “Some people may say in the end that is the same thing. To us, it is a major difference because focusing on our movement helps let passion and heart lead the way.”

Working With Retailers

David Yaskulka, vice president, marketing communications for Halo, Purely for Pets, said that while brands such as American Express, Lifewater, Cover Girl and others might pay Ellen millions to be associated with their products, Halo is actually co-owned by Ellen.

“She’s a believer, not a paid spokesperson,” Yaskulka said. “And it shows in the power of her messaging. Ellen says, ‘I love my pets so much that I’ll only give them Halo.’ Ellen never says such deeply personal endorsements of other brands, because the nature of this relationship is from the heart.”

Yaskulka continued to say that there is no more passionate, credible and visible animal-rescue advocate than Ellen.

“She would never recommend anything less than exemplary for pets,” Yaskulka said. “That’s why she’s such a powerful part of the Halo, Purely for Pets, brand. She believes in the highest quality natural nutrition and she believes in helping animals. That’s the Halo brand in a nutshell.”

In February, Hinze-Clark hosted a trunk show and pet adoption event in “The Dog Bar,” which is Miami’s leading pet store and also one of their prime locations for Legitimutt.

“We are looking forward to introducing new and exciting additions to the Legitimutt line this year,” Hinze-Clark said. “The pet industry is stronger than ever and we are happy to be a part of such an exciting and growing industry.”

Keever said that one of the reasons we love celebrities is because we relate, are inspired, or see a bit of ourselves in what they do.

“Sharing that story and connection with customers when talking about a brand helps the customer to make the purchase because now they are a part of the brand,” Keever said. “In my opinion, our celebrities are able to help validate our movement to help dogs in need by simply being involved.”

The advice Keever gives to retailers is to talk about the movement first, helping dogs in need and how we couldn’t do it without them.

“They [the retailer] are the difference because with every item they sell, one is donated to help a dog in need,” Keever said. “It is the reason for being and what we stand for. The great part about that is then you can talk about the exciting people involved in the movement. And last, but not least, how all of our products are made in the USA, all-natural and high quality.”

Licensing Brands

Celebrities are not the only option for selling products. Licensing products are always another option and something that customers look for.

“As a brand, Eddie Bauer has a long history with dogs, as his legacy includes breeding the first black Labrador in America,” Jack Savdie, the vice president of sales for Age Group Ltd., said. “In addition, all Eddie Bauer products are made to withstand the rigors of outdoor use, including various temperatures and terrain. Hence, these products are well-suited for the active pet and owner. What we love most about the brand is we can design an active outdoor collection, as well as a heritage, home-friendly collection.”

Age Group Ltd. also sells Hello Kitty merchandise, which is one of the most popular characters in the world.

“She is recognized by both sexes of all age ranges, kids to adults,” Savdie said. “Hello Kitty has a tremendous and loyal following. Females make up about 75 percent of all shoppers, making this one of the best female brands across all retail channels in almost every category and department.”

Savdie suggests to retailers that if they wanted to promote brands like Eddie Bauer and Hello Kitty, they should use signage, social media, flyers, brochures and their website.

“It takes about 30 seconds to get a customer’s email address,” Savdie said. “Establish a mailing address and send out an email once a week promoting a certain item, sale dates, whatever it is. What’s great about purchasing the Hello Kitty brand is Age Group will give back a certain percentage to the retailer in order to cover advertising fees.”

Just like celebrities, these brands have a history of performing well, which will help them fly off the shelves.

“Hello Kitty merchandise can be found in almost every independent or mom and pop retailer across the U.S.,” Savdie said. “After doing many studies, we found that any brand that performs well in a certain retail channel would most likely perform the same way in another.

“Almost everyone that owns something that bares the Eddie Bauer logo can attest that its functionality, long-lasting quality is the best out there. Eddie Bauer also has a loyal following and as sport, outdoor and functional brands are on the rise, so too we believe that the Eddie Bauer brand is going to perform in all retail channels; we know it already is and we are very excited for 2014.”

Tanked

Wayde King and Brett Raymer have been in the aquarium business for 18 years. Recently, their TV show “Tanked” has had their product, Blue Shark Products, sales go through the roof.

“Wayde and I used to have an office and people used to come in our office all the time and say, ‘You guys are great, you guys should be on television,’ and we made a great product so we decided to film our own version of a pilot,” Raymer, COO of Acrylic Tank Manufacturing, said. “Then we shopped it around for a while. [It] took about 3 years to get it off the ground. Finally we got it off the ground and here we are 5 years later.”

Before it was Blue Shark Products, the product was originally called, Naturbac.

“These guys had products that were mom and pop products that we used that we thought were great products,” Raymer said. “It had a hard time getting national exposure. So I spoke to Bobby and Christian and told them about the show and, once the show takes off, we would love to endorse these products and get our name onto something because they are great products, we could get some national exposure and hopefully come up with a great chemical line.”

Blue Shark Products is now a well-known brand, especially internationally, and as the show continues to gain popularity, more people will want to purchase the products.

“There is no better advertising than television,” Raymer said. “This year, we are going to feature the product on the show a great deal. Our business from being on the show has jumped tremendously. So I can imagine all these retail stores that bring in our products, how much business they are going to gain from the popularity of the show as well.”

Kathy Ireland and Worldwise

Worldwise has been making pet products for 20 years. Recently, they have partnered with Kathy Ireland because they share similar values in terms of viewing pets as part of the family, and wanting to provide both the pet and the pet owner with products that meet their needs.

Under the partnership, Kathy Ireland, CEO and chief designer for kiWW, will develop a line of solution-based home-decor friendly pet products with the Worldwise team and market the collection under the brand kathy ireland Loved Ones.

“Kathy brings the understanding of what it means to be a busy parent to both the two-footed and four-footed child,” Kurt Avar, senior director, creative services and marketing for Worldwise, said. “We knew we would have a winning combination if we could join Kathy’s knowledge and savvy design sensibility with Worldwise innovation capabilities and industry expertise to create a solution-based, home-décor friendly product line.”

To help boost sales of Worldwise and Kathy Ireland products, Avar said they needed to understand the specific needs that a pet has in order to be happy and healthy.

“Worldwise is built on a foundation of the ‘needs system,’ with product designed to meet specific pet needs from emotional to physical,” Avar said. “By helping to educate your staff and customers about the importance of meeting these needs everyone will be prosperous.”

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