“The AKC brand has proven itself to be a powerful, evergreen brand, as devotion to pets doesn’t diminish even in recession,” said AKC Vice President of Business Development Daphna Straus. “There are standard needs that people have for themselves and for their pets, and more and more people are viewing pets as members of the family.”
Recognizing that there is a growing appetite for products for pets and pet owners, AKC has seen increasing demand for its brand on a wide range of products. Straus says there is growing and continuous interest in the AKC brand across all kinds of products and services.
To get the word out about its various product initiatives, the AKC utilizes press releases, and flagship web sites AKC.org and WOOFipedia.com to target its core audience. In fact, its core website receives an average of 3.5 million unique visitors each month. The organization also has an active presence with its own print and digital publications, on social media and in the blogosphere to promote consumer engagement.
Most of the licensing partners that work with the AKC have been on board for at least five years, although AKC keeps an active eye out for new licensees. The organization continually analyzes its licensing efforts to get a strong read on what is working and what is not.
“We have really looked at all our licensees to make sure we are working with best-in-class companies so we can ensure the best possible placement and products as well as to get great customer feedback,” Straus says.
AKC’s key licensing partners include Pet Brands, European Home Designs, Jewett Cameron and Pet Partners. Pet Brands is a toy and treat provider whose line includes dental products. European Home Designs produces pet beds, designer beds, pillows and throws. Jewett Cameron makes kennels and dog runs, while Pet Partners provides pet health insurance.
One of the AKC’s most exciting recent partnerships is the AKC Select program with Big Lots. It is an exclusive line of pet products featuring the AKC brand. The AKC Select product line includes dog toys and treats as well as dog accessories including collars, leashes, beds and grooming supplies. “A lot of people are looking for variety and sustainability in products for themselves, and they are looking for same thing for their pets,” Straus says.
AKC also partnered with BH Pet Gear on the AKC Calming Coat. The calming coat relaxes a dog that is anxious by swaddling the dog and applying constant, gentle pressure to its torso.
Another successful licensee is Zebra Publishing, an international leader in the calendar sector. The two companies work together on a wide array of annual print calendars featuring many different dog breeds.
“Our goal is to have a diverse selection of products for pets and pet owners,” Straus says. “Some of the other product programs we’ve worked on include shampoos, conditioners, and grooming tools, and we’re also looking at eco-friendly, non-toxic home-freshening products as well as a gift basket line with items for owners and their pets.”
One area where AKC is continuing to evaluate opportunities is the digital space. The organization has dabbled in the licensed mobile app space in the past, but hasn’t yet found its sweet spot. The digital world is an area that AKC views as important, and it also recognizes that consumers look to its brand for the products and categories where it already has established a strong presence.
“We are considering several initiatives in areas such as wearable technology, because our customers are looking for our brand on products that help them interact with their pets,” Straus says. “As the leading authority on dogs, people want quality products from us, which can include digital entertainment. We are a key player in the digital space, so we like to see how people interact with technology in relation to their pets while following social channels because the social side of pet ownership is very important online.”
Ultimately, the AKC strives to work with licensing partners that understand pets and pet ownership. Its partners must understand what it means to own a pet and what pet owners care about.
“It is important that our partners truly understand our market,” Straus says. “So far, we’ve been successful. Ours is a brand that speaks to everyone who likes dogs, of all kinds. AKC exists to help people be the best dogs owners they can be, and we consider it a privilege to be there for owners every step of the way. The success of our licensing program tells us that people are responding to the AKC as a universal brand for all dog owners.”