The website provides fresh ideas and information related to pet care and the joys of animal companionship.

Linking your petfood brand sales to famous personalities can be heavenly or hellish. The question is: Is it worth the gamble? Marketers have long sought to distract and attract the attention of potential customers who live in a world of ever-increasing commercial bombardment. Because of the constant media saturation that most people experience daily, they eventually become numb to standard advertising. The challenge of the advertiser is to find a hook.

One well-used approach at differentiating advertisements is the use of celebrity endorsements. Celebrities are seen as dynamic individuals with likable and attractive qualities. The words and often just the image of a popular person will cause many people to stop and pay attention.

For years, professional athletes, famous actors and musicians have been the traditional favorites to feature in advertisements. As the ad market continues to grow and competition becomes fiercer, marketers have turned to new categories of celebrity spokespersons. A champion racehorse sells petfood in Great Britain. New categories for celebrity endorsers are opening every day as the reach of the media moves closer to home.

The chef

Popular television host and home-cooking chef Rachael Ray has launched her own dog food brand named Rachael Ray Nutrish, from Dad's Pet Care Inc., and was our December 2008 cover girl. Ray says her latest venture was inspired by her own dog, Isaboo, and proceeds are to be donated to Rachael's Rescue, an organization the food star founded to help at-risk animals find adoptive homes.

According to Ray's website, Rachael Ray Nutrish includes two varieties of all-natural dog food featuring real meat as the first ingredient-Real Chicken & Veggies and Real Beef & Brown Rice. There are no by-products, fillers, artificial flavors or preservatives, the website says; and each recipe contains antioxidant nutrients like vitamin E and selenium to support a healthy immune system; a fiber blend including oatmeal for easy digestion; omega fatty acids, with a dash of EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) to support healthy skin and a shiny coat; high quality proteins to support healthy organs and lean muscle mass; and calcium for strong bones and healthy teeth.

The trainer

Cesar Milan, well-known dog behavior specialist and star of National Geographic Channel's Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan , has partnered with Petco to brand "Dog Whisperer" merchandise for dogs, including organic dog food, treats and other products and accessories. Among the products in the line are organic canned and dry dog food, treats, fortified water, liquid supplements, collars and leashes, toys, grooming products, training pads, stain and odor removers, beds, bowls and an instructional series of DVDs. The line is expected to include more than 100 products. Additionally, Petco.com will offer access to an exclusive online dog coaching course personally designed and developed by Millan to instruct owners on raising a happy, healthy and well-balanced dog.

The comedienne

Halo, Purely For Pets announced in 2008 that talk show host and comedienne Ellen DeGeneres has become an owner of the 20-year-old all-natural petfood company. The announcement came as Halo was expanding its product line and retail presence for its line of petfood and pet care products in the US market. The company has expanded distribution with major retail chains such as Whole Foods and Petco, as well as independent pet specialty and natural outlets. The expansion was designed to extend Halo's lineup of all-natural petfood and holistic pet care products, according to the company.Three new treats recently released by DeGeneres and Halo are:

  • Pumpkin & Peanut - Low fat, vegetarian and gluten-free for dogs that are allergic to wheat products;
  • Skin & Coat - Contains omega oil, salmon and Halo's Dream Coat ingredient, which helps animals maintain beautiful skin and shiny coats, according to the company;
  • Antioxidant - All over well-being treat made with yogurt, green tea, cranberries and chicken with cheese, which helps pets' overall health including better sight and healthier looking skin.

Halo has also overhauled its famous recipe for its flagship Spot's Stew, adding more protein and new flavors. Tests prove even the finickiest cats like it over leading brands, claims the petfood company. A new product, Halo's Spots Stew Pate, has increased protein levels and is finely ground to satisfy cats who hate too much texture in their food.

The mogul

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc. (MSLO) announced in March the launch of a multiplatform pets initiative with www.marthastewart.com/pets as a cornerstone of the program. The website provides fresh ideas and information related to pet care and the joys of animal companionship, including a blog from the perspective of Martha's French Bulldogs, Francesca and Sharkey, called " The Daily Wag ".

The primary sponsor for the new website is Nestlé Purina PetCare and its superpremium petfood brand Purina ONE. According to MRI, the Martha Stewart audience includes 9.7 million dog and cat owners who share their home with a collective 21.7 million dogs and cats; they purchase more than 200 million pounds of petfood each month.

Stewart had this to say: "I have been passionate about pets all my life and over the years have been fortunate to share my home with many dogs, cats and canaries. I understand why people consider their pets to be members of their family and am delighted to be offering a website, television programming and other content that celebrate that special relationship and help consumers to better care for and enjoy their pets."

Nestlé Purina and Purina ONE will be featured on the new website through proprietary content, a link to Purina ONE's website- www.purinaone.com -and through online advertisements. As part of its multimillion dollar agreement with MSLO, Nestlé Purina and Purina ONE also will be the subject of two special segments on upcoming episodes of The Martha Stewart Show . Stewart recently visited the St. Louis, Missouri, USA, headquarters of Nestlé Purina to film one of the segments.

You need FREDD

Using famous personalities can be an effective method of promoting products. When considering the choice of which celebrity to use as a spokesperson, management must understand the advantages and disadvantages of using celebrity endorsers.

If the choice is successful, the celebrity endorser will capture a viewer's attention from the clutter of daily advertising, increase the public's awareness of the product and ultimately influence consumers to purchase the product. However, if the celebrity is carelessly chosen, the results can be costly and damaging.

Associating with a famous person requires the assumption of the risks of poor image, irrational behavior and questionable credibility of the spokesperson used. Marketing research has found several models to aid the marketing manager in evaluating celebrities as potential endorsers. FREDD, developed by the Young and Rubicam agency, is a helpful tool for assessing the best characteristics of a celebrity as a potential product endorser. Understanding and being able to assess the familiarity, relevance, esteem, differentiation and decorum of a famous individual in relation to the product being sold is vital to a successful advertising campaign.

Source: Academy of Marketing Studies Journal , July, 2003 by Robert A. Swerdlow, Marleen R. Swerdlow