Dogs In Cyberspace?: Get Joy Wants To Keep It Real...Virtually

The founder of fresh and healthy dog food brand Get Joy comes to his fixation on virtual community and collaboration honestly. It's in his pedigree. Tom Arrix helped build Facebook's ad business, as one of the earliest employees at the company in 2006, and eventually leader of the North American ad business.

And so his vision for poking through the D2C dog food clutter involves retail, content, media and social models that attempt to appreciate how people live, online and off, and how their pets are woven into family life.

It’s a slow burn and a long game, he says, because trust is built from customers believing you know who they really are, how they live and what they need -- and being where the customer may be going.

The company recently announced it plans to launch a virtual dog park in the metaverse as yet another place for pet owners to commune, learn, maybe toss a cyber-frisbee -- all without having to remember poop bags. 

MediaPost: Is there really room for so many healthy pet food D2Cs, or does Get Joy bring a distinct value prop? 

Tom Arrix: I think it's both. This is not a winner-take-all space. The ability to take the foundations that I learned back in the early Facebook days around community and to build a trusting brand that brings confidence to our consumers is there. We all have to put our stake in the ground around nutrition, but we're not a subscription-only platform.

We’re more of an ecommerce-driven entity, so we believe in kind of democratizing a consumer’s ability to buy one of our products and hope over time we can build their confidence and trust to be all things for nutrition, for their animal.

MP: Why is ecommerce over subscription an important distinction?  

Arrix: It's really important to think about how consumers are living their lives and to be practical about it. Not everybody is going to be ready educationally and understand the efficacy of moving to fresh nutrition, so I think we'd be remiss if we didn't think about how the household is operating today.

And then we have the opportunity to build a relationship and trust, and educate and help people learn more about taking care of their animals.... I think that's the transaction that is important, but our job is so much bigger and our opportunity is so much bigger than just a subscription. We're playing the long game; we're thinking about the many years ahead where dog owners will be smarter about how to take care of their animal, not just in nutrition, but dog wellness. 

MP: What can you tell us about how you characterize growth?

Arrix: 50% of our numbers are subscribers, the other 50% are single purchasers. 50% of our subscribers come back and add to their basket, so it's not just a subscription and they walk away. It's about asking what they're looking for and how do we make them better pet owners? 

MP: So how do you define your target market? 

Arrix: Our core customer is a woman 30 to 50 years old. She loves wellness, she loves fitness, she loves to travel, she loves the good things in life, she loves her family dearly, she loves her kids -- and the kids include her dog. She is cautious of the world around her from a sustainability perspective.

But at the end of the day, she is a person who wants to do what's right for her household, and she's the leader of the household. And she is a modern day do-i- all. And we believe that that person is an influencer within their community. 

MP: I'm curious -- since you're in a category that has a number of competitors who preceded you, what share of your customer base have already been educated and converted by your competitors? 

Arrix: I do think the competitive landscape has done a really good job educating the marketplace as well. It's always wonderful when you have news like Mars buying Nom Nom. That is just incredible validation.

And people will gravitate to a brand experience that they trust, [when] they really feel that brand cares about them, wants them to benefit from all the great things that are being developed. So like any great relationship, the notion of trust and confidence is really, really important. And so we're doing both.

We're not leaving it to the marketplace to do the education; we have a very special approach, we believe. But I think everybody has locked arms, [in] so many ways, to move the fresh segment to a more-important place in food selection.

MP: You've mentioned a few times that you feel you brought from Facebook a particular idea about how to build community. You use terms like collaboration and educating the market and a particular approach to content. I want to get into that, but first of all, from an even more fundamental perspective, what D2C marketing channels have been most important to your growth? 

Arrix: Social media platforms are very important. If done right, they become wonderful places to story tell and to build that relationship with the consumer.

The ability to be in a search environment has been very powerful for us as well. We have tested in 2021 influencers, and not influencers like some of our competitors have approached, but more lifestyle-driven [influencers] that really showcase our ideal customer persona.

Those environments are still really hard and they can be very expensive, no question about it. So when you think about going into those environments, you need talent, you need great strategies, and you need to really think about how you can manage the costs and drive the business. 

I saw the other side when I was at Facebook, I also see the opportunity outside of paid ads and paid search, and even influencers to a degree, where we can humanize our storytelling, our brand. We did a wonderful pop-up test at Cisco Brewers this past summer in Nantucket. We saw the uptick when you could tell the story and you talk about the product, and [when] you can talk about how the product can help that animal and that household, we saw the lift.

MP: Give us more detail about this live pop-up? 

Arrix: So we were on premise for 60 to 75 days last summer. We had a branded ice cream cart, and we would tell our story. And we brought our brand to the doorstep, where people are living their best day in one of Nantucket’s unbelievable social environments. And we saw the education seep in, and we saw trial really start to take off.

So when we think about that environment, people go there for vacation, then go back to Pennsylvania and go back to Connecticut and go back to Chicago, and it allows us to reconnect to them at some juncture.

MP: You recently announced a metaverse project for virtual dog parks. What’s the plan? 

Arrix: We’re so excited about the metaverse because it allows us to move really, really fast as an innovative brand. It's going to be an environment where [you get] education, awareness, sharing of dog ownership experiences. We think about future dog owners in that environment as well, so we think about the younger people on the demographic that are already gaming and are really doing this already.

How can we create environments where they can learn so that they become a pet owner? And there's going to be opportunities to create product experiences. We want to really highlight the fact that appropriate spaces are important for the growing population that exists today. Now's the time to shine the light on the fact that we can use digital worlds to actually make the real world a better environment for these animals.

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