Market Focus?Dog Lovers (311 words)
They are the fearless guardians, the tireless playmates, the sentient guides, the most loyal companions, and for some lucky people, the ultimate go-fors. Whether it's a pure-blooded poodle or a mangy mutt whose only claim to fame is a ratty old bandanna, if it's nose is wet and it's tail is wagging, it's probably loved by someone.
A study by the American Pet Association in 1998 found that of all the dog owners in the United States, more than half are more attached to their pets than to at least one other human being.
They are all things to more than 43 million people, and what do they ask for in return? Nothing—they can't talk (but don't try telling that to some of their owners).
If they could talk though, they'd probably ask for nothing more than a full belly, a warm place to turn around and lie down in and an occasional scratch behind the ears. Oh, and don't forget the mesquite-flavored rawhide bone, the genuine suede leash and collar with personalized name plates, a quilted car seat with a booster for maximum window enjoyment, a plush-lined, cedar dog house with an electronic-collar-activated doggie-door, and an infinite supply of Frisbees, balls and other assorted chewables destined to be covered in saliva only minutes out of the box.
Whether or not dog owners actually hear their coveted canines making these requests, the message still comes in loud and clear. More than 75 percent of cats and dogs will find gifts (costing on average $95) waiting under the tree for them come Christmas, shows a USA Today poll done by Gallup for PETsMART. But, how do you target this vast group without barking up the wrong tree?
"When you're in the market, it looks very limited," says Linda McAleer, executive vice president at Millard Group, which brokers for Fancy Publications (publishers of Dog Fancy), "because it's absolutely necessary to have dog ownership." McAleer explains that even though ownership appears on a lot of the files, one can't always be sure. Newsletters are great, says McAleer, because they often demonstrate a more specific interest in things like pet health or animal advocacy.
"There's a whole world of consumer files, and pet owners really took to the Internet, but part of the problem is that not all of them are specified by type of pet," McAleer says.
Michelle Liebau-Drennan, senior account executive at Focus USA, warns that consumer files can be flawed: "I don't have a dog, but I buy presents for my parent's dog. Because of that I'm on every pet list going." Liebau-Drennan suggests using lists overlaid with survey information because pet ownership is self-reported.
Among other list test possibilities, McAleer says that lists of respondents to veterinarian-distributed puppy kits are not as strong as catalog files, but she does attest to the good performance of personalized, or "affinity," check files, where people choose to have puppies printed on their checks.
Tom Mack, sales manager at Adrea Rubin Management, agrees. "There's a very strong affinity there. People write checks every week and they're sending out something that makes a statement about who they are. People who pick dog or puppy checks are not just dog-likers."
The Truth About Cats and Dogs
Fear not, kitty lovers: According to a study conducted by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in 1997, there were an estimated 59 million cats in the United States.
Yet, while felines outnumber the canines by nearly 6 million, dogs are found in 4.2 million more homes. The reason: Cats are like potato chips, you can't have just one.
Dog owners are more likely to live in non-metropolitan areas. The income of dog-owning households is generally in the mid to high range, and dog owners are more likely to also be homeowners.
Both the AVMA study and Dog Fancy readership surveys agree that 70 percent to three-quarters of the people taking care of dogs are women.
No Bones About It
Beyond treats, pet supplies and magazines, these files still house vast opportunities for marketers.
Linda Chuntz, senior account executive at 21st Century Marketing, says, "We find that a lot of the pet lovers are interested in family issues, and many of the older people are very generous to fund-raisers."
Fund-raisers from the ASPCA to the National Wildlife Foundation are targeting pet files with ferocity.
Mack says that continuations on tests are about 70 percent. "One of the most popular selects we offer is animal welfare contributor," says Liebau-Drennan.
"Our pet lists attract a number of photo-finishers," says Chuntz, "because people love to take pictures of their pets."
It's true. According to the American Pet Association, 41 percent of pet owners show their pet's picture in their home, and 17 percent keep a picture in their wallet.
"They do well with gardening and nature-related products," says Ellen East, business development manager at Lifestyle Change Communications.
"Also," reports East, "our cat files, for some reason, work really well for the Doubleday Mystery Book Club." A mystery indeed—sometimes it's just best to let ... well, you know.