With the battle heating up to be the dominant online pet supplier, Pets.com is extending its brand offline with a print magazine.
The first edition of the 36-page, 8″ x 10-1/2″ bimonthly publication mailed in November to 1 million people, including rented names of veterinary offices, humane societies, and pet owners who use computers. The magazine, which features original articles from the Pets.com editorial staff and advice from pet experts, is supported by advertising from pet supply manufacturers. Though it “sells” merchandise by showcasing specific products and providing search words to find the item on the Website, customers must shop online.
“We launched the magazine in order to extend and introduce our brand to pet owners,” says John Hollon, vice president of editorial at San Francisco-based Pets.com. “We kept the feel of the magazine similar to our Website so that hopefully people would want to find out more about Pets.com after reading the magazine, and they’d feel continuity with what they find when visiting our site.” The magazine – now the largest pet publication in the U.S. – also has an extended shelf life, “since it will sit in the veterinarian offices or on consumer coffee tables and be read by a number of people,” he says.
The pet products Website, which raised $82.5 million in an initial public offering on Feb. 11, credits the magazine with attracting new customers. “The magazine has been one of our most efficient and effective customer acquisition tools, and we’ve had very positive response from our readers,” Hollon says, though he would not provide specifics. But Pets.com has increased its customer base dramatically since launching the magazine. In late ’99, the company had 144,000 customers; for the quarter ended March 31, 2000, the number of customers had swelled to 264,000.
A star is born
The last page of the April 2000 edition of the magazine features a splashy ad for products such as sweatshirts, pet bowls, watches, and hats – all emblazoned with the likeness of the popular Pets.com sock puppet.
Since its ad campaign starring the “spokespuppet” launched in the third quarter ’99, the company has received more than 10,000 e-mails and calls about the sock puppet.
In fact, Pets.com announced in April that it is working with licensing firm Hakan & Associates to introduce licensed sock puppets and sock puppet-themed merchandise in stores nationwide this summer.