Social media influencers have transformed the way brands interact with consumers—and a lot of those influencers aren't human. Like Super Bowl ads that use cute puppies to sell everything from beer to ketchup, adorable dogs with huge social followings are getting a lot of love from brands these days.
Dogs can fetch anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 per sponsored post on Instagram, according to Rob Schutz, vp of growth at Bark & Co., parent company of BarkBox, a service that sends treats and other products to dog owners every month. Bark & Co. works with brands like P&G's Swiffer, United Airlines, American Express and Anheuser-Busch to promote their products with dog influencers on social media.
"All sorts of brands want to tap into dogs," Schutz said. "Dogs are a common denominator for everyone, and they're safe, because everyone likes a cute or funny dog. They're not going to get in some scandal or say something stupid on Twitter and have it reflect negatively on the brand."
"There's an innate positive feeling that a viewer has when they see a cute dog doing something," said Loni Edwards, managing partner of The Dog Agency, a firm that matches brands like Dyson, Barneys New York and Accor Hotels to dog influencers. "People feel a strong connection to animals that they see day in, day out on their feeds. You feel like you know them."
Wacha, Andy Cohen's dog, has 198,000 Instagram followers and has appeared in sponsored posts for Purina One to promote the brand's work with shelter dogs.
Toast, owned by social star the Fat Jew, has 368,000 Instagram followers and has appeared in sponsored posts for Karen Walker accessories and P&G's Febreze and Swiffer. "Toast has such a large and loyal fan base on her social media channels, and her tone is witty and honest, making her a natural fit to partner with," said Mandy Ciccarella, brand communications manager at Procter & Gamble, which has been working with Instagram-famous dogs like Toast and Doug the Pug for the last year. "Toast adds a playful and tasteful spin for every brand, and she has a likeability factor," said Hilary Williams, talent management director at Digital Brand Architects and Toast's manager. "She's also a rescue dog, so she has an interesting backstory. She has an accessibility factor that's also aspirational, which is funny to say for a dog, but it's true."
Menswear Dog, a Shiba Inu whose name is Bodhi, boasts 279,000 followers on Instagram. The dapper dog has done sponsored posts for J.Crew, Banana Republic and Gentleman's Box, a men's accessories company. "Menswear Dog has a great following, and he's really helped our business get added exposure," said Christopher George, co-founder and CEO of Gentleman's Box. "The great thing about a dog model is, it rises above all of the demographics that people worry about: whether it's a girl or a guy, whether young or old people will like it," said Yena Kim, Menswear Dog's owner, agent and photographer. "It injects a feel-good mood into a campaign. You look at Bodhi and smile—he looks great in menswear."
Knox the Dox, a mini dachshund, with 67,000 followers on Instagram, and Sadie, a three-legged Chihuahua with 32,000 Instagram followers, have both worked with Flonase, Ford, BarkBox, Purina and Walgreens, but the dogs' distinct personalities mean that brands can use them in different kinds of ads, according to Liz Reim, who owns both dogs. As a three-legged dog, for instance, Sadie is ideal for inspirational stories. "They have different audiences, just like people do," Reim said. "I would rather see a cute dog than a person in an ad, and I think a lot of people feel the same way."
This story first appeared in the September 12, 2016 issue of Adweek magazine.