Meow Mix and Kibbles 'n Bits are hard on the scent of the still-young but quickly growing pet blogger phenomenon.
The two key Del Monte pet food brands will be front and center as presenting sponsors of BlogPaws 2010 (April 9-10, Columbus, Ohio), an event that bills itself as "the first-ever pet bloggers' conference."
The growing influence of pet-related blogs is one of the top trends in the pet industry, according to Small Business Trends. The blogs' power as community hubs for millions of "pet parents" became apparent during the mid-2007 pet food recall crisis, and the number of "quality" bloggers providing commentary on all aspects of pet news and issues continues to expand, SBT reports.
The Alltop topics aggregator site currently lists more than 150 pet-focused blogs (http://pets.alltop.com), but there are "thousands and thousands out there," says Caroline Golon, a co-founder of BlogPaws. com. That site, devoted entirely to helping pet bloggers develop their blog sites and use social media and other tools to expand their communities, is also the springboard for the new conference.
Pet bloggers range from high-profile veterinarians (e.g., PetConnection, from "Good Morning America" resident vet Marty Becker, and Dolittler from vet/pet journalist Patty Khuly) to pet services entrepreneurs (PetsitUSA.com) to rescue fund-raising organizations. Then there are the innumerable blogs from animal lovers of all stripes and interests (e.g., Victor the Budgie Blog, dedicated to a late parrot of that name, which explores "encounters with amazing animal intelligence").
The Alltop directory also lists a few blogs branded or sponsored by sizable pet product/services brands, such as PetCo, PurinaCare pet health insurance and regional blogs from the Best Friends pet care chain.
"Big brands are beginning to get involved in the pet blogger community," affirms Golon, adding that there's been considerable support for the new conference.
As the sole "presenting" or top-level sponsors, Kibbles 'n Bits and Meow Mix get top sponsor billing on BlogPaws.com and in signage in the exhibit area at the show, and promotional exposure on the site beyond the conference, Golon says.
"Social media and the blogger community are important to Del Monte in its efforts to listen and engage with consumers and thought leaders through relationship-building and meaningful dialogue," sums up Rob Leibowitz, VP, marketing pet food, Del Monte Foods. "This particular conference is new to members of the online community and offers Meow Mix and Kibbles 'n Bits a unique opportunity to support and work with this community and help build this program from the ground up." As the brands "look to solidify their media strategy for online advertising," BlogPaws presented "an important first step in connecting and networking with online thought leaders and pet enthusiasts," he adds.
Meow Mix and Kibbles 'n Bits also recently launched new TV ad campaigns -- "intelligently contemporized" takes on the brands' well-established positioning (including a cat playing the iconic Meow Mix jingle on the piano) from Draftfcb. Named creative agency of record for all Del Monte pet products in December 2008, Draftfcb is creating integrated television, digital and print advertising, FSI, social media, PR and shopper marketing executions for each brand.
Major pet brands are among the many that are seeing substantially increased infusions of marketing/advertising investment under Del Monte's Accelerated Growth Plan strategy. Indeed, in December, The Wall Street Journal reported that Del Monte plans to boost marketing/promotional spending for its high-margin, recession-resistant pet products by 55% to 65% over the next year, to match competitive brands' levels.
Other BlogPaws 2010 sponsors include PurinaCare, PetSmart, Dogtime Media, Wellness natural pet food/treats, Bissell, Puppy Tweets (a motion-sensitive collar from Mattel that tweets prerecorded messages reflecting the dog's current activity onto Fido's personal Twitter account) and others.
Golon says that she and her partners expect about 300 attendees, including bloggers and PR/marketing pros interested in networking with them. "We wanted to keep the event rather intimate, particularly the first time out," she notes.