Freshpet, the nation's only maker/marketer of fresh, refrigerated dog and cat foods, is launching an ambitious television campaign.
The brand's first agency-created TV campaign -- from New York-based Darling Agency -- includes one 30-second and two 15-second spots. The ads will air on ABC, CBS and NBC programming (including "Good Morning America," "The Today Show," "The View" and "Rachael Ray") and on 20-plus cable networks (including Animal Planet, Food Network, Hallmark, HGTV, Lifetime, National Geographic, Oxygen, Planet Green, TNT and WGN). The first flight is running spring through late June, and the second, August through October.
The target audience for the brand, founded in 2006 by three pet industry veterans and based in Secaucus, N.J., is extremely well-defined: empty nesters age 45 to 54 with household incomes of $100,000-plus. "These are people whose kids are now busy with high school or off at college or in jobs now, and who are now lavishing their affection and attention on their pets, which they basically view as their 'children,'" says Freshpet VP, marketing Kathryn Winstanley.
These consumers want to feed their pets "healthy and delicious" products, and Freshpet fits that bill. The foods consist of fresh, all-natural, minimally processed poultry, meats or fish and vegetables (no preservatives, and guaranteeing a "100% complete and balanced" diet). Clearly, these consumers are also affluent, although at an average cost of about $2 to $2.50 per pound, Freshpet's cost per day works out to about $1 to $1.25 for an average-size (20- to 40-pound dog) -- about the same as other premium (non-fresh) brands, says Winstanley.
The product's consumer base also skews to females, but that's true for basically all pet food and products. "About 80% of the entire pet category is driven by females," notes Winstanley, who adds that the dog-food market alone is estimated at $9 billion annually and that pet food is grocers' fourth-largest product category.
Taglined "They know", the spots show dogs' instinctive understanding of what's happening with their masters -- that one is going on a business trip, another needs a puppy-slurp wake-up call, and another had a bad day at school, for example. The voiceover then points out that dogs also know instinctively that they need and want fresh, healthy food that tastes great.
End visuals show the product -- in this case the company's core line, Freshpet Select, which comes in tubes for slice-and-serve meal preparation or in tubs (and is available in some 6,500 grocery and mass merchant chains) -- and its unique pet-aisle branded refrigerator. Voiceover messaging: "Introducing Freshpet. They know it's fresh because they taste real chicken and vegetables. You'll know it's fresh because it's only in the Freshpet fridge." Freshpet Select also has varieties for cats.
Freshpet's dog food offerings also include Deli Fresh and "inspired-by-nature" Vital lines that are sold in pet specialty stores, a Veterinary Nutrition line available only through vets, Dog Joy Treats and more. In addition, July will see the launch of Roasted Meals -- stew-like meals for both dogs and cats available in new, resealable pouches designed for ultra-easy feeding, reports Winstanley.
The decision to invest the lion's share of its 2011 media/marketing budget in the TV campaign came about through Freshpet's testing of various media in key markets, including television (using in-house-produced creative), in 2009.
"We saw 30% sales lifts -- I mean sustained lifts -- with the television, so the power of that medium for our strategy was clear, and we moved to a small national cable campaign in 2010," says Winstanley. "With our quickly expanding distribution, we saw a huge opportunity to move to a much more significant campaign with agency creative this year. These products are truly unique -- they're not just another brand of flavored kibble that sits on shelves for years sometimes. We're redefining the pet food category, and that requires marketing and other investment."
Freshpet also employs social media and continues to test print, billboards and other media, and will employ newspaper FSI'S to support the Roasted Meals line launch, Winstanley says.