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How Pedigree is using social media to create social change

How Pedigree is using social media to create social change

By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.

Some brands have to work hard to win over consumers’ love and loyalty. Some have an easier time of it. Pedigree is a brand that’s lucky enough to operate in the latter group.

Dog owners generally share a common bond with other dog lovers and as market leader Pedigree shares part of that bond too.

But the dog food brand is in stronger position than simply being there to share the love. It has been a force for change too, raising awareness and helping worthy causes.

That said, the brand has not been immune to the economic downturn facing the same problems as many other FMCG products.

“We face the same challenges as all other pet food brands in so far as the wider market has been in recession,” explained Pedigree Marketing Manager, Stephen Rendu (pictured).

“The drop in consumer’s disposable income filters down to the choices they make on the shopping aisle As a result it’s forced us to be more relevant than ever to consumers.”

He continued, “I don’t think there will ever be a consumer who gets as excited about dog food as me. Most consumers see dog food as a means to an end. But home owners do get excited by brands. And Pedigree is a brand.

“Dog owners are typically 100 per cent excited about their dogs. If we can translate that excitement into our brand, we’re onto a winner.”

At the crux of Pedigree’s strategy is the belief that “Everything we do is for the love of dogs” and that it should be accessible to all.

That accessibility has been lifted via digital. But with directly selling Pedigree via its website, like many other FMCG brands, how is the brand utilising the space?

“I think how a brand approaches digital, with its goals and objectives should be determined by where it sits,” said Rendu.

“We have massive brand awareness but perhaps there’s a generation of consumers who don’t realise what we stand for today and don’t realise that our brand values have changed from 20 years ago.”

He continued, “For us today, it’s about building relationships. Digital allows us to put our brand out there and interact with consumers. But ultimately your digital spend and activity should be determined by the objectives for that time.”

So, for example, two years ago Pedigree’s focus was on website build. But with that achieved, for the past 12 months the shift has been towards building enagement.

This has involved investment in search, social media and encouraging a consumer shift from offline to online. But the drive towards having positive conversations with consumers is now beginning to happen.

The drive for engagement has most recently been spurred on by the Pedigree Adoption Drive. Set up to help charities care for and find homes for the thousands of dogs abandoned every year in the UK.

Despite Britons calling themselves a nation of dog lovers, worryingly the RSPCA claims that between January and April 2010 10.3% more dogs were abandoned compared to the pervious year.

Launched on April 28, 2010, the Adoption Drive, in partnership with The Petplan Charitable Trust; hinged on a statistic from The Dogs Trust that one abandoned or stray dog is put down every hour in the UK.

The strategy saw a move away from the on-pack donation mechanic of previous years to utilise social media to connect with a wider audience, supported with experiential activity to encourage consumers to get involved and donate

“Our two biggest goals were to raise awareness of the plight of abandoned dogs and do something about it,” explained the Pedigree marketing boss.

“Once we decided to go down that route, it was important for us to have a point of view, This allowed us to participate in the debate and show we cared, while consumers got involved by taking and uploading pictures of their dogs, building sentiment between them and Pedigree.”

He added, “By championing the cause we have been able to grow the view that ‘Everything we do is for the love of dogs’. It’s not just about saying it, it’s about translating it into marketing practices.

“It’s important for brands to be transparent and we put ourselves on the line. Eventually you have to let go of the discussion, but often it becomes much richer.”

Through a hard hitting YouTube first, the campaign incentivised consumer participation through its unique donation-per-view mechanic.

The YouTube video took the form of four chapters, each reflecting a stage in an abandoned dog’s journey to being re-homed.  For every 25,000 views, a new chapter was unlocked, along with a donation from Pedigree.

Consumers were mobilised to act, empowered by the ability to ensure that the dog’s journey ended positively by passing on the link to friends and generating views and donations. Pedigree pledged to match consumer participation by donating £25,000 per 25,000 channel views.

Over a space of four weeks the YouTube page generated over 100,000 views, quickly gaining momentum to its present figure of over 153,000.

Meanwhile on Facebook, the seven-week campaign has secured over one million ‘likes’ to date, with fifty pence donated per like, and attracted a strong following on Twitter, with retweets from high profile rescue dog owners such Kevin Spacey and Amanda Holden.  

Moved by the campaign, The Daily Mail pledged its support by bringing the reality of the plight of the abandoned dog crisis to the public and encouraged readers to donate. With The Pedigree Adoption Drive matching all donations, Daily Mail readers raised a further £36K for the cause. To total to date has reached £218,000

“It was about getting consumers off their seats and getting involved, opening up the brand strategy for discussion though social media,” added Rendu. “But we have learnt some important lessons. Firstly, you need to be true to what your brand stand for, or you will be found out.

“Secondly, it’s important to have a point of view to be involved in the discussion. Finally, brands need to realise it’s not their space, but a social space where they need to be engaging, listening to and sharing conversations.”

But once brands have secured consumer buy-in, how should they best maintain the momentum of a campaign?

According to Rendu, brands need to make a long term commitment and not forget that if they walk way, the conversation will still continue. Ways they can contribute include writing about news relevant to brand issues on a daily basis, encouraging uploads and engaging in offline stunts to activate online discussion and talkability.

Pedigree can be pleased that its leading the discussion over the plight of dogs is making a difference. Over the past three years £1.3m has been raised and donated to dog charities both large and small across the UK.

So does Rendu have any parting words for his marketing peers?

“Any marketing activity needs to be embedded in your brand beliefs or you will be found out. In social media conversations it’s important to be there and participate,” he warned.

“There also has to be a level of transparency with brands prepared to answer the critics by being brave and standing by their beliefs.”

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