When Purina needed a stunning new spokesmodel for its Just Right by Purina line of custom dog food, the company didn’t reach out to just any dog. It collaborated with Tinkerbelle, a papitese (papillon-maltese mix) to be the face of its campaign.
“Just Right has partnered with Tinkerbelle and [owner] Sam for more than three years, and we continue to be impressed by the audience and engagement she’s built,” said Julia Pitlyk, brand manager for Just Right by Purina. “Tinkerbelle, the self-described professional diva, creates fun and interesting content but also goes above and beyond to be a great partner.”
This remarkably photogenic dog has been an internet sensation since she first popped up on Instagram back in 2013, a year after Sam Carrell adopted the cute canine from a Long Island, New York animal shelter when Tinkerbelle was just 9 months old.
Carrell, an actress and professional dancer, started Tinkerbelle’s Instagram initially as a way to share photos of the ridiculously cute pup with her family and friends. In just a few months, managing Tinkerbelle’s social media presence and endorsements had snowballed into a near full-time job. Tinkerbelle’s adorable appearance and gentle demeanor even resulted in her popping up onstage in New York, where she appeared alongside Tony Award nominee Sally Mayes in a production of “Gypsy” as Rose’s dog Chowsie.
Tinkerbelle’s big break came in the form of being stopped on the street by an agent, who asked to have Tinkerbelle appear in Ralph Lauren’s “The Dog Walk” fashion campaign with shelter dogs in 2013. As the face of the print and video campaign, Tinkerbelle’s image appeared on buses, posters and billboards throughout the city, and soon brands were reaching out to Carrell.
“Tinkerbelle makes everything look elegant,” noted Gina Davis, co-founder and fashion designer for Dog Threads, a family-owned business that designs stylish clothing for pets and their owners. “She has us all craving the jetsetter lifestyle, and her sense of style is better than most humans.”
Officially known on Instagram as “Tinkerbelle the Dog,” this petite pup (she weighs just five pounds) spends her days traveling the globe and cuddling with the rich and famous, including Ariana Grande, Taylor Swift, Whoopi Goldberg and countless supermodels. Tinkerbelle’s photos typically range from her being a fashion diva showing off her Henri Bendel collar, Mendota Products leash or other awe-inspiring wardrobe, rocking her favorite sunglasses while lounging poolside at a luxury hotel or posing in front of a recognizable monument. In fact, wagwear, the New York-based designer pet clothing company, creates Tinkerbelle’s one-of-a-kind, custom-made red carpet outfits for her special appearances.
One of Tinkerbelle’s most entertaining endeavors for her followers is a travel blog, #TravelingTink, which details her globetrotting adventures. Some of the destinations that have been covered in the blog include the Berkshires, South Beach, the Dominican Republic, Rome and Venice in Italy, and Paris, France.
“We love the partnerships with these hotels that bring her to their properties,” Carrell explained. “The hotel takes photos of her to get the word out about what they have to offer, and some even have pet-friendly menus so pets can order room service. They’ve been so well-received by our social media followers.”
The feeling is mutual, according to several of her clients.
“Tinkerbelle enjoyed many of the amenities we offer at Hotel Hugo, including a luxurious breakfast in bed,” said Pablo Migoya, general manager of Hotel Hugo, a luxury boutique hotel in New York City. “She was a perfect guest and we look forward to welcoming her back for another stay. Her content was outstanding.”
“When Experience Kissimmee decided to work with our first ‘petfluencer,’ we knew it had to be Tinkerbelle the Dog,” noted Camila Carvalho, social media manager for Experience Kissimmee. “We were not only attracted to Tinkerbelle’s engaged following, we also knew she would have the personality to boost our holiday campaign. And we couldn’t be happier with the results.
“Tinkerbelle brought five pounds of fierceness and fabulousness to our destination and promoted Kissimmee as a perfect, pet-friendly vacation spot,” Carvalho continued. “Tinkerbelle’s content performed extraordinarily well. Experience Kissimmee’s Facebook account even gained 1,703 new followers. With her sweet and sassy personality, Tinkerbelle captivated our hearts and became Kissimmee’s little mascot diva. We’re looking forward to having her visit Kissimmee again!”
A wide range of manufacturers are making use of pet influencers like Tinkerbelle, who has become a magnet for companies looking to promote household items and pet products, including national brands like Swiffer, Febreze, Rachael Ray’s Nutrish and Purina.
“When we booked Tinkerbelle to model and launch our boots, we created the size 0 just to fit Tink’s tiny feet,” recalled Karyn Pek, founder of Poochie Boots. “Tinkerbelle is a wonderful and professional model. We also made her an assortment of straps, from gingham to glitter. Her paws are protected and her shoe game is always on point.”
When Tinkerbelle met Toulouse, a beagle-chihuahua mix belonging to Ariana Grande, during a Coach Pups campaign hosted by the luxury lifestyle brand in 2015, it led to Tinkerbelle meeting the superstar backstage for a private photo shoot before one of Grande’s performances in Boston.
“Toulouse was brought to the Coach campaign by Joan Grande, Ariana’s mom,” Carrell recalled. “Tink ended up in Joan’s arms, and when Ariana saw the photos of Tinkerbelle, she wanted to meet her. We made arrangements to travel to Boston when Ariana’s tour took her there, and Tink ended up exchanging kisses and hugs with Ariana. It was an amazing moment.”
With Tinkerbelle’s skyrocketing popularity, she’s taken part in numerous modeling shoots, including those for elite fashion designers such as Vivienne Hu and Christie Raules. Being a native New Yorker, Tinkerbelle has become a regular on the runway of New York Fashion Week.
“Tinkerbelle has walked in our fashion show during New York Fashion Week for several years,” said Fran Boller, executive vice president of Marketing for Haddad Brands, the global children’s apparel and fashion accessory company that has licensing partnerships with such iconic brands as Nike, Jordan and Levis kids. “At first we were skeptical about having a dog ‘walk the runway,’ but in usual ‘Tink’ fashion, she stole the show. It’s always a pleasure working with Tink.”
A solid marketing plan is vital to the success of a product, and merging the power of pets and products is the perfect formula for success. Thanks to Tinkerbelle having amassed a huge following on her own, with more than 200,000 Instagram followers, brands aren’t making Tinkerbelle famous; it’s the other way around.
Thanks to her reputation and universal appeal, Tinkerbelle has appeared in People, US Weekly, NY Post and Entrepreneur magazine, which named Tinkerbelle one of the most entrepreneurial dogs in America.
This past May, she was featured in a video series called “Annals of Obsession” by The New Yorker magazine. In the video, Carrell describes her four-legged star as “a diva celebrity; she’s very Kardashian, she’s very sassy… Tinkerbelle has a wardrobe that’s larger than mine.”
Appearances and credits like these have brands coming back for repeat campaigns.
“Working with Tinkerbelle always goes seamlessly,” explained Danica Brett, assistant brand manager at Canada Pooch, the clothing company that makes fashionable-yet-functional coats, sweaters and boots for dogs. “She is a fashion icon, and we love outfitting her with Canada Pooch products to help keep her stylish, trendy and protected from the elements.”
Similar to her resume of brand sponsorships, Tinkerbelle’s list of accolades is growing, including being a two-time Webby Award honoree, a Shorty Award winner and a New York Emmy Award nominee, as well as other recognitions. And thanks to photo shoots and meetings with celebs like Grande and Swift, those honors and her list of clients are only expected to grow.