How PetSmart used pet influencers to help create its holiday campaign –

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PetSmart is embarking on its largest influencer marketing push yet, putting several social-media-famous pets at the core of its holiday campaign. 
TikTok and Instagram have become key marketing vehicles for PetSmart over the past 18 months. Influencer partnerships have been a central part of the brand’s strategy on the two platforms, with influencer-focused campaigns often driving “double-digit engagement rates” on TikTok, said Will Smith, chief marketing officer and senior VP at PetSmart. 
“We’re liking the additional storytelling that happens around our brand because of our TikTok presence,” he said. “I see it as an integral part of our [strategy] for the foreseeable future.” 

The pet retailer is partnering with four primary influencers for its holiday campaign: @tikatheiggy, an Italian Greyhound; singer and drag performer @officialjujubee and her cats, Priss and Mister; @madmax_fluffyroad’s Corgi, Maxine; and the reptilian influencer @lizzardlenny. They appear throughout PetSmart’s holiday messaging, from a series of four TV spots to a featured section on the brand’s website that allows consumers to shop from a curated list of products approved by the pets and their owners. 
Since creating a TikTok account in April 2021, PetSmart has launched almost 30 different influencer campaigns across both TikTok and Instagram, collectively featuring nearly 100 pet influencers. These campaigns have typically revolved around holidays or the launch of new product lines, Smith added.

Read more: Holiday marketing 2022—what brands need to know

Unlike its past influencer partnerships, PetSmart involved the campaign’s four core creators in planning the holiday 2022 initiative from its early stages, he said. The marketing team shared campaign storyboards with the influencers and explained the different products and services PetSmart wanted to emphasize with the campaign, and then provided opportunities for each creator to share their perspective about which aspects of the campaign’s messaging might be best received by their individual audiences, he said.
“What the influencer element does is it allows them to go deeper on things that we might not be able to go into on our own,” Smith said. “It allows them to help us show the diversity of our offerings and then speak to them … We want them to have the capability of just going to their own audiences—with a little bit of a PetSmart filter—and just be authentic with pet parents across the country.”
Each influencer is also producing social content throughout the holiday season highlighting PetSmart products and services. While some of these videos are organic, PetSmart is putting paid support behind a handful of social media ads produced by Deutsch LA, its agency of record, which also created PetSmart’s holiday TV commercials.
This paid content includes videos the brand “would want almost every customer to get exposed to,” such as Tika’s TikTok about PetSmart’s PetsHotel boarding service, Smith said. 
“We believe strongly in [influencers’] ability to add that next level of authenticity, but also connect to a world outside of our own,” he said. “People want to be a part of the brand. They want to identify with that brand. As long as you have [influencers] who are truly honest about it all, then it shows in the content and resonates with customers.”
PetSmart is also partnering with 10 additional pet creators across Instagram and TikTok to produce sponsored content showcasing the brand’s holiday products. TikTok user @tinkerbelleadog, for example, shared a video of dogs Tinkerbelle and Belle listing their “favorite holiday items” from the brand, while user @phillychinchilly tried on clothes from PetSmart in his video.
Many of these videos, along with those from the campaign’s four core influencers, include the sponsored hashtag #PetSmartMadeMeBuyIt, a play on the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt hashtag that has amassed over 31 billion views on the platform. PetSmart’s hashtag launched Nov. 7 and has already garnered roughly 3.6 billion views for videos that are a mix of paid ads, influencer posts and organic ones. 
PetSmart’s holiday campaign continues its “anything for pets” brand platform launched in 2021. According to a recent survey from PetSmart, conducted by Wakefield Research, 83% of the 1,000 surveyed pet parents said they are “very likely” to purchase a holiday present for their pet, while over half indicated they would “spend more time shopping for their pets than some family members.” Additionally, a 2021 survey from the American Pet Products Association found that at least 70% of U.S. households own a pet. 
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