Have you noticed that advertising is going to the dogs? Those cute, cuddly canines are springing up everywhere — from commercials to print ads and websites.
Dogs are replacing the pretty girl with the great smile as the current darlings of advertisers of all stripes. And for good reason: That pup is worth its weight in gold. In an era when consumers are looking for a special connection with companies and brands, most people find dogs endearing and just plain irresistible. Of course man’s best friend won’t be every marketer’s best friend. This is not to say that you should think about using dogs in your marketing. But dogs in ads can teach us a lot about effective marketing tactics. Here are four lessons to be learned from marketing that has gone to the dogs.
1. Dogs make you look
The job of an ad is to capture the attention of the target audience. No one can act on your ad if they don’t see it. Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads every day. This tremendous barrage of marketing messages has made us understandably selective about what we choose to notice. So when a commercial comes on and the first image is of cuddly Labrador puppies climbing into the linen drawer, people who have positive mental associations with dogs stop a moment to take a look. And when that happens, the advertiser has successfully scaled an incredibly challenging hurdle. Do your ads grab your customers’ attention?
2. Dogs engage our emotions
Getting consumers to notice your ad is the first task, and the next is to engage them in a way that will be memorable. Memory and emotion are inextricably bound together. Think about it: When you recall a fun experience with a childhood pet, how does it make you feel? The emotions seem to come rushing back, and it’s hard to separate the memory from how the experience felt. For many people, simply seeing images of friendly dogs evokes warm feelings and in turn makes the advertisement more memorable. What’s the best way to engage your customers’ emotions?
3. We trust man’s best friend
The recession has changed the way we shop, as consumers now scrutinise product and company information more thoroughly than ever. With precious rands to spend, we want to spend them right. Companies must build an overall image of trustworthiness, and that’s why advertisers, some major websites, and even software programmes use images of dogs.
4. Dog lovers feel a kinship
For an ad to be effective, it has to ring true. The target audience must identify in some way with it, either because they’re literally pictured or there’s a story to which they can relate. For many of us, our dogs are vitally important members of the family. So when an ad features a dog, pet owners relate to the situation, person or family being depicted. We feel a kinship and begin to establish a connection with the company or brand being advertised. What’s the best way to convey connection and community among your customers?
In all, dogs in ads engage the audience and subtley convey that this is an advertiser we can trust. And as consumers, we see ourselves reflected in the story being told by the advertiser, which motivates us to choose the advertised company or product over others. Now that’s puppy power.
South Africa’s ‘Buddy’
South Africa’s own successful canine campaign is none other than Toyota’s Buddy the Boxer, the brainchild of communications agency, Draftfcb Johannesburg.
In the 2009 Millward Brown Adtrack awards, Buddy was voted second ‘most liked’ for the Corolla Buddy Ball advert and secured 10th position for the Hilux sheep ad. In 2010 the Auris Chichi ad followed suit, securing second most liked ad of 2010 and the Hilux ‘Manup Broken Down’ ad took fifth place.
South Africans love their dogs, a factor Toyota and Draftfcb were well aware of while deciding on a character for Toyota. Buddy’s antics (and friends) became the perfect blend of humour and all-round cuteness to maintain Toyota’s trusted and, above all, loyal image.