“We’re pet experts and we’re pet lovers, too,” claims the about page on the Pet Valu website.
The company operates the largest retail pet store operation in North America, so it’s a good bet Pet Valu knows a bit about marketing too.
I became interested In learning more about what they do when researching companies that have created great Christmas contests and promotions with ShortStack’s software and design services.
See, for three consecutive holiday seasons, Pet Valu has brought its customers an annual Christmas Wishlist Contest.
When I wanted to get the inside scoop, I was directed to Olivia George, chief strategy officer at Maximize Digital, a marketing agency in Florida. Olivia’s been involved from the start and agreed to tell me more about how Pet Valu has done so well with their annual online Christmas promotions.
It turns out they’re not only online promotions, they’re promoted in-store too—at 1,000-plus locations across Canada and the northeastern states.
Going interactive to pick your pet’s presents
“We started this three years ago. Pet Valu came to me with this idea to get their audience engaged with selecting pet gifts for the holiday season,” said Olivia. “They had eliminated a print piece they offered in store, a gift guide.”
“They wanted to introduce a fun, interactive way for their audience to get familiar with what Pet Valu offered and what would be fun for their pets to have as Christmas gifts.”
“The idea they brought to me was almost like creating a Pinterest board—being able to shop through a visual list of pet products.”
“What we ended up doing was breaking those up into dog items, cat items and small pet items. You can browse through them and just create your wishlist,” said Olivia.
Bring on the contest design experts
Olivia told me Maximize Digital runs ShortStack promotions for a variety of its clients and goes with the “do-it-yourself option” 90 percent of the time. That is, they select a template from the ShortStack library and build it out to meet their needs.
However, when the agency chose to develop the Pet Valu promotion with the “Win Your Wishlist” template, they brought in ShortStack’s design services team to do some customization and get it just right.
“They really brought this awesome campaign to life for us,” she told me.
That was in 2015.
The promotion was a big hit. So they recreated it for Christmas 2016, attracting nearly 12,000 pet-loving participants (in Canada alone). The 2017 version is being queued up now.
Finding furry friends online and off
I asked Olivia how Pet Valu’s Christmas Wishlist Contest is promoted.
“This is one of their biggest promotions during the year,” she said. “So they’ve got a large digital advertising budget for this. They do a lot of advertising on Facebook. And they create a lot of in-store signage for this, so they’re really pushing this in-store as well.”
User-generated content and friend referrals
Here’s how this contest works…
- You select your pet category.
- You pick nine gifts.
- If you win, they’re yours.
In the process, each player generates a nine-pack of presents.
“When you get to the thank you page, your items actually populate in a square little collage, which is actually shareable content. So that image of your wishlist items lives in the gallery. You can go back and find your wishlist if you want to go and share it with others,” said Olivia.
This sequence introduces a viral element. Participants share their wishlists via social media and their friends learn of the contest. In fact, the contest features an instruction to “share with your friends.” By doing so, you earn bonus entries.
“We use ShortStack’s refer-a-friend feature,” Olivia told me. “And they can share it as many times as they want and get bonus entries from their friends clicking on their shared URL. So they have an even better chance to win if they share.”
Pet brands do fun marketing
I love pets and as a marketer who pays attention to what brands are doing, I’ve come to love how many pet brands do such effective marketing. Olivia agrees…
“I love this contest because it gets the audience in the mindset of shopping for their pet. At the same time it’s really getting them familiar with what Pet Valu has to offer. So if they don’t win they can go back to their wishlist and say I actually really want to go and buy this. For that reason, it’s a really powerful marketing tool for Pet Valu.”
The email marketing element
Behind the scenes of all this contest participation is the act of filling out forms. Participants willingly volunteer information… the type of pet they have… the pet’s name… and more.
“The vast majority of the people opt into the email list and offer information about their pets,” said Olivia. “Sometimes we ask for their pet’s birthdate or adoption date, because Pet Valu will offer fun deals and specials during pet birthday months and things like that. So they get all of this information via these entry forms and it becomes a great email marketing tool for them too.”