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Citizen Critics: Consumers Seek Credible Pet Advocate Endorsements

By Robert Wheatley//January 30, 2024//

Citizen Critics: Consumers Seek Credible Pet Advocate Endorsements

By: Robert Wheatley//January 30, 2024//

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One of the buzziest communications tools in the social digital metaverse is the deployment of paid influencers to produce favorable branded content. Yet criticisms abound for many of these recommendation sources about their potential for spurious evaluations (at times) hence, raising questions about their credibility. My former employer Ogilvy (& Mather when I was there) is out with a new report on strategic shifts in the role and form of influence that’s likely to catch fire in 2024 pet brand marketing plans.

According to Ogilvy’s fresh, new Influencer Trends Report, there are upwards of 50 million content creators globally. Of those, about 2 million are paid enough to rely on this gig as their primary source of income. That means there’s another 48 million who own amateur status as serial sharers who are in it for the king and queen-maker roles more than any big paycheck.

Influencer strategies and deployment in 2024 are likely to grow along a different trajectory as the consumer’s clarion call for transparency rings like a truth-seeking Klaxon horn. You already know, influence is simply that: a credible third-party evaluates, assesses and reports on products and services, expressing their opinions to validate, verify or deny the assertions and claims made by brands.

Citizen critics, if you will.

“Credible,” however, is the operative word. The effectiveness of these strategies is irrevocably linked to how they are curated and managed to steer clear of anything that looks, sounds or smells fake and artificial.


Pet may be one of the most influence-centric businesses of all time

Yes, we have a special relationship with our furry companions that creates real lifestyle associations and lifetime care investments aimed at delivering optimal wellbeing for our beloved pets. The fandom around this category is palpable and there’s no shortage of informed citizen opinions about better nutrition, behavioral lessons, health and wellness regimens and other forms of pet care coaching.

Here we will weigh in on a few bellwether developments in the influencer canon of 2024 best practices.


Some of your most powerful influencers already work for you

Employees in this context are truly special because they deliver on so many of the unfolding rules of credible and honest endorsement people seek.

Employees are advocates.

They uphold a shared vision.

They possess insider knowledge.

They care more than outside third parties.

They are naturally believable.

Recommendation: create a company-wide program to develop influential, employee-generated content for social channel distribution. Provide them with tools and education on rules of the road for social community management/deployment, writing skills and how to conduct a successful conversation. Alongside the general employee population, build a special cohort of authoritative subject matter experts who bring added veracity and knowledge to the table.

As your program unfolds, identify the content creating superstars who have a knack for credible communication and push their content out further through cross-channel marketing programs. Be sure you’re thinking beyond the obvious application in B-to-B comms within LinkedIn.


Sustainability objectives best served in this influential media environment

You have an extraordinary opportunity here to shape consumer attitudes and behaviors around seeking out sustainable choices. Ogilvy reports that 78 percent of people are often swayed by the opinions and counsel of green-fluencers. Content creators who are clearly on a mission to serve the betterment of our environmental challenges can be a powerful and convincing asset to help you express sustainability best practices around your own goals and standards.

Recommendation: consumers are becoming much more aware of sustainability performance and will be the source of callouts on any greenwashing practices – so, best to match the behaviors with the policies and rhetoric going in. For this reason, it’s critical to supply influencers with credible, science-backed information and assessments of sustainability readiness. When selecting influencers to work within this space, look for those who walk the walk as much as they talk the talk. If they “live” the message, chances are they will be much more credible and convincing.

Just remember to provide support infrastructure aimed at deepening their knowledge.


Tactical: emergence of live-streaming

This may be pretty obvious, but live-streaming is inherently more believable because there’s no script, no fancy editing or slick production – instead it’s in the moment and feels more real and authentic to the viewer. Long-form content is headed to a resurgence this year and live-streaming is inherently in that extended play zone. It’s also an immersive experience that is well-suited for live Q&A that consumers routinely find informative and helpful.

This is the format for product demonstrations.


Horizon technology: digital avatars

Digital AI (as best seen in the new “Billie” avatar that bears extreme resemblance to Kendall Jenner,) can be a source of hyper-personalized content because they can remember preferences and adapt to specific user interests over time. Sort of an ultimate influencer that remains in the wings as an ongoing advisor and info source. This technology is just now unfolding and will start to get traction in the year ahead. We mention this as a developing technology you should be aware of, and to look for its emergence in social environments.

Of note AI also is an electronic challenge to trust and belief, so it is vital that any AI powered tech is flagged as such clearly for viewers.

Bottom line: Influence is moving to embrace the citizen content creator who is seen as more credible, honest and authentic. Truth and transparency are the watchwords for successful brand communication in the year ahead. Influence is a powerful asset when curated and assembled in the right way to provide objective, informed analysis of what you want people to believe.


Robert Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Emergent can help pet brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity and deeper meaning in their pet parent relationships and brand communication.