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Four Marketing Tips from Your Dog

Why Fido is starring in more ads and what it means for your business.

Have you noticed that advertising is going to the dogs? Those cute, cuddly canines are springing up everywhere -- from commercials to print ads and websites.

Dogs are replacing the pretty girl with the great smile as the current darlings of advertisers of all stripes. And for good reason: That pup is worth its weight in gold. In an era when consumers are looking for a special connection with companies and brands, most people find dogs endearing and just plain irresistible.

Of course man's best friend won't be every marketer's best friend. This is not to say that you should think about using dogs in your marketing. But dogs in ads can teach us a lot about effective marketing tactics. Here are four lessons to be learned from marketing that has gone to the dogs.

Dogs Make You Look
One of the chief jobs of every ad is to capture the attention of the target audience. No one can act on your ad if they don't see it. Consumers are exposed to thousands of ads every day and are multitasking now more than ever before. This tremendous barrage of marketing messages -- from mobile ads on our cell phones to stickers on poles at the gas station -- has made us understandably selective about what we choose to notice. So when a commercial comes on and the first image is of a beautiful chocolate Labrador retriever sitting on a couch, people who have positive mental associations with dogs stop a moment to take a look. And when that happens, the advertiser has successfully scaled an incredibly challenging hurdle. Do your ads grab your customers' attention?

Dogs Engage Our Emotions
Getting consumers to notice your ad is the first task, and the next is to engage them in a way that will be memorable. Memory and emotion are inextricably bound together. Think about it: When you recall a fun experience with a childhood pet, how does it make you feel? The emotions seem to come rushing back, and it's hard to separate the memory from how the experience felt. For many people, simply seeing images of friendly dogs evokes warm feelings and in turn makes the advertisement more memorable. And ad recall is crucial to a high response rate since an ad has to be both seen and remembered to produce the desired result. What's the best way to engage your customers' emotions?

We Trust Man's Best Friend
The recession has changed the way we shop, as consumers now scrutinize product and company information more thoroughly than ever. With precious dollars to spend, we want to spend them right. Companies must build an overall image of trustworthiness, and that's why advertisers, some major websites, and even software programs use images of dogs. Progressive Insurance, for example, is running an amusing TV spot in which a dog presses a button to reveal competitive price quotes. Clearly, Progressive hopes customers will trust the company to offer insurance at a fair rate. What's another way to engender a greater feeling of trust among your customers?

Dog Lovers Feel a Kinship
For an ad to be effective, it has to ring true. The target audience must identify in some way with it, either because they're literally pictured or there's a story to which they can relate. According to a survey from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, there are about 77.5 million dogs owned in the United States, and nearly 40 percent of all households have at least one dog. For many of us, our dogs are vitally important members of the family. So when an ad features a dog, pet owners relate to the situation, person or family being depicted. We feel a kinship and begin to establish a connection with the company or brand being advertised. What's the best way to convey connection and community among your customers?

In all, advertisers are putting pups front and center because they grab attention in a memorable way. Dogs in ads engage the audience and subtly convey that this is an advertiser we can trust. And as consumers, we see ourselves reflected in the story being told by the advertiser, which motivates us to choose the advertised company or product over others we feel less warmly about. Now that's puppy power.

Kim Gordon is the owner of National Marketing Federation and is a multifaceted marketing expert, speaker, author and media spokesperson. Her latest book is Maximum Marketing, Minimum Dollars.
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