There's a good reason American consumers see an increasing number of marketing campaigns targeting dog and cat owners. The U.S. pet industry will represent an estimate $51-billion business this year, according to the American Pet Products Association.
The APPA's latest research indicates almost 73 million American homes own pets (62% of U.S. households). Americans own more than 78 million dogs and more than 86 million cats. That translates into an opportunity for the marketing of obvious products and services, such as dog food, cat food, and pet retailers, but also not-so-obvious products and services like air and hotel travel, because Americans like to travel with their pets whenever possible.
Now two of the travel industry's pet-friendliest providers, JetBlue and Kimpton Hotels, have teamed up in a co-branded initiative to celebrate National Pet Awareness Month by launching a joint promotion, the "JetPaws Best Pet Yet Contest."
Consumers are invited to submit a photo of their pet by May 18. In return, five winners will get a "JetPaws Prize Pack," which includes a pet carrier, travel kit, leash and collar. One grand prize winner will get a getaway vacation package for a guest and a pet to Los Angeles with round trip air on JetBlue and a 2-night stay at the Hotel Palomar-Los Angeles, a pet-friendly Kimpton Hotel.
The contest has two interesting twists. First, for every photo submitted, JetBlue will donate $2 (up to $10,000 maximum) to the Millan Foundation. This foundation, created by television's popular "Dog Whisperer," National Geographic Channel star Cesar Millan, provides financial support to assist non-profit animal shelters and organizations engaged in the rescuing, rehabilitation and re-homing of abused and abandoned dogs, with an emphasis on spay/neuter programs.
The second twist is that participants in the contest must follow JetBlue on Twitter and submit their photos via Twitter and use the hashtag #JetPaws. JetBlue is testing the effectiveness of Twitter as a response mechanism as well as determining how much buzz the contest will generate via Twitter. Pet owners are a friendly bunch and are thought to be likely to tweet their pet-owning friends with news of the promotion.
Airlines occasionally pitch pet-friendliness. There is even an airline, Pet Airways, that specializes in transporting pets in comfort. JetBlue offers JetPaws, an exclusive program the airline says "provides pets and owners with the tips and tools needed for a smooth trip." The program includes a pet carrier bag tag, a pet travel guide, and 300 TrueBlue (JetBlue's frequent flier program) points for each trip with a pet.
Kimpton Hotels is one of the few hotel brands that not only welcomes pets regardless of size or breed at all of its hotels, it also does not charge an additional pet fee or deposit, as do many hotels.
Clearly JetBlue and Kimpton are looking to be the big dogs in pet travel. Sounds like Coca-Cola is missing an opportunity here: bottled water for dogs, under the tagline "the paws that refreshes."