The Digital Yeoman Marketer

With two of the cutest long-haired Chihuahuas on the planet in our household, I was interested to hear about the promotional partnership Mars’ Cesar Canine Cuisine is running with Pandora Internet Radio through the holidays. Sure, it’s not the usual fare for a B2B marketer, but a music station for dogs and their owners to “enjoy sweet holiday music together”? Really? But hold on: Forget the dogs for a minute. The lapsed musician in me was even more intrigued. Would this be “We Three Kings” ratcheted up six octaves to that dog-whistle sweet spot? Or singing chipmunks modulated to send Fido into paroxysms of holiday howling (with the potential to spawn scores of excruciating YouTube videos)?

Thankfully, it turned out to be neither. The musical offering on Cesar’s Pandora station is a rotating selection of recent cuts by bands such as the White Stripes, the Pixies and Parachute. No beat-you-over-the-head holiday theming, but as Cesar brand director Tierney Monaco was reported to explain, “We thought a playlist of songs to enjoy with loved ones would be an exciting way to give back to our supportive consumers.” The station is also promoted on Cesar’s Twitter page.

While I don’t know the details of Cesar Canine Cuisine’s target demo, I do know that the brand aims to appeal to the owners of small dogs, and to women in particular. I have no doubt that Peeps and Tuni (sorry—our own two astonishingly adorable Chihuahuas) would rip into a can of the gourmet-ish meals like rabid micro-Rottweilers if given the chance; but the positioning of the product, as well as its branding, is just a little too precious for my taste. But then I’m not the demographic—or so it seems safe to assume on the basis of the Cesar/Pandora repertoire. (If Ingrid Michaelson is too vapid, Seal is fine; but Radiohead isn’t likely to show up on the playlist, unless they happened to cover “Let It Snow” and I missed it.) For the engagement and loyalty that the Mars company seems to want to build with its ideal consumers, the Cesar brand team is doing a nice job with this seasonal promotion.

Curiously, though, a part of the campaign seems to be missing in the execution. Press releases early this month announced a QR code on retail signage at more than 14,000 major retail stores, designed to help shoppers connect instantly with the Cesar Pandora station. Billed as the first QR-code promotion that Pandora has done, this publicity campaign would engage dog owners through a savvy integration of in-store and online touchpoints. Unfortunately, the Achilles heel of this strategy is that it depends on the retailer to set up and maintain the signage—often a futile hope, while at the same time a critical portal for the shopper.

I’m a sample of one, and the Cincinnati market may not be representative; however, after two weeks of looking high and low in major retail stores in this area, I have yet to find any signage about the Cesar/Pandora promotion next to the Cesar products on-shelf. A disaster for the Cesar brand? Not likely, but I’d bet that signage in more stores would generate substantially higher traffic to the Cesar site. So, with apologies for the, well, shaggy-dog story to get this far, we’re reminded that in the age of so much digital whiz-bang marketing, our ability to engage, win and satisfy customers still depends on the hard work of executing at street level. If that’s a yeoman’s job, it remains as important as it’s ever been for the best marketers.