There was a time when all that was expected of a dog was loyalty, protection and unconditional love. Now we need them to be well coiffed, quippy and prepared to sell us anything from a household cleaner to a car – on Instagram, anyway. This new breed is known as dogfluencers and they have hundreds of thousands of followers and command anywhere from $2,000 to $3,500 per promoted social-media post, finally putting to rest the question of "Who's a good boy?"
"When it comes to influencer campaigns, dogs can get away with a lot more than humans," says Matt Meeker, co-founder and CEO of Bark & Co, creator of BarkBox (a doggie version of BirchBox, the beauty-product subscription service). "People don't look at a dog influencer and say, 'That dog is a sellout.' They are totally wooed by its cuteness."
Meeker has partnered with companies as wide-ranging as Swiffer, United Airlines and American Express, signing on his kennel of dogfluencers – roughly 400 social media accounts referred to as the BarkPack – to create sponsored content, as well as create custom products for placement in BarkBox.
"[The people behind] dogfluencer accounts spend just as much time posting, engaging and building their brands as traditional influencers, so it only makes sense that brands would want to tap them for promoted content in fun and creative ways," he says.
And agencies want to represent them, too. The Dog Agency, the first management company exclusively for animal influencers, opened in New York this year and has partnered famous pups up with Google, 20th Century Fox and Barneys New York. It raises the question: Are the days of human celebrity endorsements coming to a close?
"Dogs drive an emotional connection, and when it comes to purchase behaviour, humans tend to make emotional decisions," says Natasha Koifman, president of NKPR public relations and artist-management agency. "I think the role of influencers will eventually slow down, but a cute dog will always be on trend."
For Allan Glanfield founder of Loyal Canine Co. dog-care products, the fame of his best bud Frankie helped build his business. "When Frankie got to 10,000 followers it was exciting and we decided to use it to our advantage." Suddenly, Frankie (@citydogliving, over 13,000 Instagram followers) was shilling his human's line of nose and paw balms to all his followers (@loyalcanineco, around 6,000 followers).
Much like a human influencer, dogfluencers need to commit a considerable amount of effort and investment to get to the top, living up to the idiom of "working like a dog."
"Having a well-photographed account is important. If it's not aesthetically pleasing, it's not going to be interesting to follow," says Debra Goldblatt-Sadowski, president of Rock-It Promotions, which recently held a dogfluencer event with mattress brand Casper to launch its dog beds. "Of course, getting to know a dog's personality and being funny are on the human."