The Promotional Industry is Going to the Dogs!
(and cats too!) 10/1/2018 | Gregg Emmer, Marketing Matters
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“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated” Mahatma Gandhi

Pets, from the cute little tail-wagger rescued from the pound to the elite canine with more paperwork than an IRS audit - Americans “adopt” these new family members by the millions and I think even Gandhi would agree they are treated quite well. In fact the pet industry is about three times as large as the promotional advertising/specialty marketing industry! The pet industry generates $63 Billion annually. According to Ibis World Research the pet industry has grown 22% in the past 5 years.

30 years ago, when the first of Millennials were starting school, the explosion of pet adoption really got going. The percentage of households with pets went from 56% in 1988 to 68% today. That is 85 million homes with pets! The pet population stands at 78 million dogs and 87 million cats!

All this means that a promotional project that uses a pet related promotional item will be useful and appreciated by 70% of the marketplace - guaranteed! That puts pet related promotional products in the upper class of “desirability, utility and value” as are writing instruments, drinkware, and headwear. And interestingly the market is split nicely between Millennials owning 38% of pets and boomers with 35%.

If, by now, you are wondering how you sell pet related promotions to pet stores, the simple answer is you don’t! That is not an absolute “you don’t” and certainly pet stores can and do use promotional goods to thank customers and develop loyalty. The real value is using pet related items to deliver messages deep into households.

People love their animals - many feel they are as close to their pets as their two-legged family members. So delivering marketing messages with items that will enhance the interaction with pets, creates a strong emotional reaction and affinity for the brand being promoted. Even conventional media (TV, print) are using pets in the graphic images they present in ads. One automotive brand is advertising that their cars are “dog tested”. If you pay attention you will be amazed how often a dog or cat walks through the shot regardless of what product or service is being offered.

Some businesses I am aware of that have had success using pet items to get their message delivered include: Pet insurance providers (yes, that really is a thing. Owners can buy health and life insurance for their pets.), auto dealers, home improvement firms, grocery stores (they are the primary seller of pet food), doggy day spas (really a thing too!) school fundraising projects, hotels and motels that allow pets, pet related services (dog walkers, vets, dog waste clean up, groomers, etc.), political advertising, apartments that allow pets and fencing companies to list only a few.

The affinity people have for their pets will be shared by your customers 70% of the time because, they will be pet owners too. Creative/clever advertising messages are pretty easy to craft using pet related specialties. “We are hungry for your business” on food bowls; “We do-do things right” on waste bag dispensers; “Don’t let this deal get away” on leashes; “Fun for the whole family” on pet toys; “We’re not all bark and no bite” on dog biscuits (great for anyone that sells trees too); “We’re your Purr-fect choice” on cat toys - You get the idea!

The variety of pet items in the promotional industry keeps growing, as do the number of vendors offering pet products as part of their line. Once you start thinking outside the [litter] box you’ll find great opportunities for your clients to deliver messages into the core of households. It is well known that presenting marketing messages when people are enjoying leisure activities is the time they are most receptive. That is why every sports venue is plastered with advertising. Same for autos at racetracks and “sponsors” at amusement parks and events. Pet related promotional items allow you to deliver your client’s message at exactly the right time - time and time again.

Knowing why pet items are so effective and getting that information across to your clients will build strong repeat business for you while it works well for your client. The nature of these items are that they have a lifespan. Pet toys, food and water bowls, accessories all wear out and consumers regularly return to the merchant that gave them the item in the first place to see if a replacement is available. Store traffic is $$ for merchants and another great reason to use pet products in the promotional projects you build for your clients. Make Gandhi proud!

 Gregg Emmer is chief marketing officer and vice president at Kaeser & Blair, Inc. He has more than 40 years experience in marketing and the promotional products industry. His outside consultancy provides marketing, public relations and business planning consulting to a wide range of other businesses and has been a useful knowledge base for K&B Dealers. Contact Gregg at


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