Cause marketing is a powerful retail incentive, and it is one that the ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), the first animal welfare organization in North America, expertly utilizes to support its mission. Recently, the organization has started working on a number of fronts to support its mission of protecting the welfare of animals through a variety of national programs including anti-cruelty, community outreach and animal health services.
“We have a two-pronged licensing program now,” explains Helene Gordon, ASPCA senior director of licensing and retail development. “One is very much focused on pets and pet products. The second is what we call ‘pet-people products.’ As pets have become more and more ingrained as parts of our family, people are now spending over $53 billion on their pets every year. We looked at that and said, ‘Among people who love pets, there’s probably a market for pet-themed products for them that support our mission.’ So that’s been a big focus of our efforts over the last year. This brand could be a real pet lifestyle brand, and that is the market we’re trying to capture.”
Gordon joined the ASPCA within the last year in a new position. Among her previous experiences was handling licensing for the Peanuts brand. “It was really important for us to bring in the experience of someone who has been in licensing for many years and has a vast experience in building brands,” according to Elysia Howard, vice president of marketing and licensing.
“With all of our licenses, there is a cause relationship there, and consumers understand that when they’re buying the product, there is a royalty going back to the ASPCA that will directly support our work helping animals across the country,” Gordon says.
One of Gordon’s projects has been heading up a redesign of the packaging of its licensed products, including the addition of line-art icons of a dog and a cat.
“We retained a very well-known and respected design firm called Pentagram to help us redesign our packaging,” Howard says. “They helped us design a few icons that will be used not only on the packaging, but even on the products themselves, to help distinguish and make our brand recognizable and unique.”
For example, the icons could be embroidered on a pet bed or incorporated in the pattern of its fabric. The ASPCA logo also will be more prominent on the packaging.
The ASPCA has expanded its licensing program considerably in recent years. “We’ve really grown in the retail space in terms of having new exposure and new retail venues,” Howard declares.
Among its latest retailer partners is Target – where the ASPCA has licensed holiday greeting cards to American Greetings Corp. and pet toys to Pet King – and jewelers Reeds and Zales, where an ASPCA-branded jewelry line called “Tender Voices” is available through a licensing agreement with Firestar Diamond.
A new line of eyewear from Eyewear Inventions LLC called Paws N Claws Eyewear is being sold in eyewear stores. An exciting new project due this fall is a compilation of animal-themed music by major recording artists that will be sold in mass retail channels and on Apple® iTunes® to benefit the ASPCA.
Licensee David and Goliath is producing licensed t-shirts with animal themes, such as a rock band of cats called “Hiss” instead of Kiss and a hard rock group of dogs called “Pugs N’ Roses” instead of Guns N’ Roses.
Over the past three years, the ASPCA has licensed products at Pottery Barn Teen, such as pillows with pictures of dogs and cats on them, and mugs at West Elm. Commonweath Toy and Novelty Co. Inc. will produce a line of dog- and cat-adoptable plush toys available in late 2013, and Vans has been licensed to sell dog- and cat-themed sneakers in 2014.
Besides raising funds through licensing royalties, the ASPCA also has partnerships with companies for cause marketing. The ASPCA has a new partnership with Liberty Mutual for auto and home insurance, and another with We-care.com, an online application that allows users to donate a percentage of what they spend at partner merchants to the ASPCA.“We-care.com’s users have raised over $2 million for the ASPCA,” Howard points out.
The ASPCA also raises funds for its mission by offering licensed content to websites and publications. “We have a lot of content that we offer as part of our brand and expertise,” Howard reports. “So that is something that we use to help get people more engaged. That’s why we incorporate expert tips on our packaging. It is inherent in the brand that supporters look to us for the best way to take care of their pet.”
Howard sees this as an exciting time for the ASPCA. “We have a really strong following,” she says. “Our fundraising and donor constituency base is growing year-over-year. Our social media presence is exploding. The audience that we have – our members and our social media followers – are not only growing, but they’re very active and responsive.
“We don’t just bring a brand to the table – we bring a legion of ambassadors, followers and loyalists who want to support the organization’s work and socialize around it,” she concludes. “There are opportunities for retailers and licensees to engage that audience and leverage it at the point of sale or online and tell a larger story. It’s not just the product – with the ASPCA you can make a difference.”