Animal Attractions

A handful of licensors are looking to the pet industry for new experiential opportunities. The moves make sense: Consumers’ love of and willingness to spend on their pets is well documented. And there is plenty of white space to fill in the experiential pet sector, which is relatively new territory for licensed properties.

Some examples:

  • The Emoji brand partnered with Lab Solutions Limited for a pop-up in Hong Kong from mid-December 2019 to mid-January 2020 that offered a variety of people-and-pet experiences. Some of the components included a playground with rides; educational displays, such as an immersive area explaining similarities and differences in how humans and pets smell and see things; photo opps; and animal-based cosplay. On weekends, a Pet Academy featured courses on topics such as dog yoga and massage, behavioral training, and how to make pet foods and supplements. Snacks, limited-edition products featuring the Emoji characters, and personalized bandanas were sold as well.
  • Peanuts Worldwide is pairing with Dogtopia for a year-long tie-in that began on Valentine’s Day 2020. The initiative, which involves more than 130 Dogtopia daycare centers, is in conjunction with the property’s 70th anniversary. Elements will include birthday parties, lookalike contests, a presence on the chain’s website and social media channels, and character costumes, all featuring Snoopy.
  • Last June, Drybar, the hair blowout chain (for humans) teamed with Universal Pictures to offer a Secret Life of Pets 2 human-canine spa day at two locations, one in New York and one in West Hollywood. The pop-up, called #Barkbar, offered hair grooming for both pets and their owners in the same location, both at no cost as part of the promotion. Certain breeds of dog, such as Rottweilers, Pitbulls, Great Danes, and others (mostly large), were excluded, as were cats.
  • Going back a few years, Petco offered limited-time themed spa packages as part of the debut of their Pet Fans pet accessory and toy collections with Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ The Grinch, Cat in the Hat, and Thing 1 and Thing 2 and with DreamWorks (now part of Universal) for the film Trolls and its characters. The ventures occurred in 2015 and 2016, respectively. The packages focused on character-themed makeovers accomplished with custom shampoo and conditioner, scented spritz, polish, and a licensed accessory, with owners encouraged to share their new looks on social media.

The pet products industry has become saturated with so many licenses, and many of them skew toward the novelty side of the spectrum. These include IPs such as films and TV shows, whose main connection with the industry is that they feature animal characters. Their positioning is in contrast to corporate brands or other properties that have a strong functional or content fit with pet products and therefore (usually) better long-term prospects.

The experiential side of the business, on the other hand, seems to be wide open, and it makes a lot of sense for characters and other properties that may find it difficult to make a mark in the physical pet products space but are relevant for consumers as part of a live event. These facts suggest more growth ahead for initiatives that marry licensed properties and pet experiences of various types.

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