American Kennel Club (AKC) and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.
Our team developed a fully-integrated brand campaign to help AKC activate their mission, build awareness, and inspire connection with a new generation of dog-loving millennials.
The AKC had a branding problem: while their core of purebred enthusiasts was strong, the 135-year old organization was having trouble connecting with a younger “adopt don’t shop” millennial audience for whom “purebred” is often seen as a dirty word. Our challenge was to help these influential dog-lovers overcome AKC’s historical perception, and begin to see them as a modern, trusted, expert resource and advocate for ALL dogs—and the people who love them.
We started by identifying an entry point to connect with this audience, focusing on highly-receptive millennials who were considering adding a dog to their family. We mapped out the dog-seekers’ digital journey, realizing that their path to decision usually included oodles of Google searches, IG dog-account follows, and YouTube dog video rabbit-holes. Essentially, the more millennials were thinking about getting a dog in real life, they more they wanted to see them online, too.
This insight gave us idea: what if we flipped the script, and instead of millennials just following dogs around online…dogs followed them around, too?
Using a combination of search data and traffic analytics, we uncovered the top 5 most searched for and followed dog breeds in the two initial markets we targeted for our test campaign.
We held a full-day shoot to capture original footage of the top 5 breeds doing super cute things and “interacting” with the viewer, built a matrix of over 90 dynamic digital ad variants, and mapped out their sequential messaging paths across display, social, and YouTube.
The result? A legion of irresistibly “Rebarketing” ads following dog lovers across the internet. We kept them purposefully unbranded to let the pups voices and cuteness speak for themselves, and crafted the sequencing so that a “Hi, hello!” message from a pug in a banner ad triggered another “Oh, it’s you again. Wanna play fetch?” ad on Instagram—enticing people to not only wonder what would come next, but ultimately, click through to meet the pups that had been following them around online in real life.
All elements of the campaign drove to a series landing pages that were customized per dog and per market, keeping the story and the journey consistent from first fetch to last click. With the brand finally revealed, we greeted users with appropriate tail wags and excitement, and invited them to RSVP to a local “Barks and Brews” event, where they’d have a chance to grab a beer, play with the purebred pups in person, talk to purebred rescue groups, and realize that breeders, and purebreds, are just regular people and doggos, just like the rest of us.
Between the two cities, we had 270 pre-sale tickets, with a total of 351 actual pup-enthusiasts in attendance – 175% tickets sold above goal. There were 17,296,161 million ad impressions that converted to 44,269 views across all landing pages and directed 2.9% to the AKC site (or 1,284) views.
To further change perception and bring greater awareness to a little known side of the AKC, all proceeds from the events benefitted the AKC Humane Fund, an arm of the organization that runs their rescue network, community education programs, advocates for responsible dog ownership, and gives grants to local organizations supporting dogs and the people who love them.
We knew we were hitting the right audience when we saw the comments on social media — dog seekers, looking for resources and connections, and dog lovers, sharing the excitement by tagging and inviting their friends.
Both events were universally deemed a success by exceeding their goals in ticket sales and attendance, bringing hundreds of millennials together with dogs and their breeders for two evenings of pure(bred) fun.