It’s no surprise that even during uncertain times, pet-related items were one of the last things people stop spending on. No one experienced this more than BarkBox - one of the pioneers of pet subscription boxes. Founded in 2011 by Matt Meeker, Carly Strife, and Henrik Werdelin, BarkBox is a monthly subscription box that is filled with premium treats and toys. To keep their offerings interesting, BarkBox has themed boxes for the holidays and other special occasions. Before signing up, owners are asked to answer some questions about their dog’s preferences, so that each box can be customized to fit the dog’s likings. BarkBox is so confident in their product that they even have a money-back guarantee if your dog doesn’t like one of the items. Recently, BarkBox partnered with online retailers such as Amazon and Target to bring their products to non-subscribers.
BarkBox’s subscription model is broken down into three pricing categories: a single one-month for $29, six-month subscription for $25/box, or a 12-month subscription for $22/box. BarkBox currently has over 600,000 monthly subscribers, and a reported retention rate of 95%, which didn’t falter during the global pandemic. While locally owned businesses struggled to survive amidst the pandemic and the social distancing guidelines and restrictions that followed, BarkBox saw an increase in business as this DTC pet marketing product fit perfectly within the guidelines of the stay-at-home orders. This uptick in business was likely also a byproduct of the massive increase in animal fostering and adoptions which was brought on by the need to shelter in place.
If anyone doubted the saying “a dog is a man’s best friend,” the immediate increase in dog fostering and adoption following the shelter-in-place order proved them wrong. Whether it was motivated by the fear of being alone for an unknown amount of time, or because people no longer had to juggle taking care of their pets and being out of the house, shelters across the world saw a spike in demand for animals.
From New York to Tel Aviv, animal shelters ran out of dogs faster than grocery stores ran out of toilet paper. In South Africa, TEARS Animal Rescue was able to place all of their 100 dogs in homes after making a call to the public. Israel’s oldest and largest animal shelter was able to match over 80 animals to loving homes in only two weeks as the country went into lockdown. According to The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, its Los Angeles office saw a 70% increase in animals going into foster care. On average, adoption and fostering rates more than doubled, leaving many shelters empty and homes full with loving animals.
As people were preparing to spend a significant amount of time at home, the need for companionship became glaringly obvious. While impending loneliness was definitely a factor in the number of animal adoptions, less depressingly, the time at home also worked as a great opportunity for pets to become acclimated with their new homes without the distractions of the outside world.
The combination of new dog owners and existing pet owners being forced to stay home created a perfect opportunity for BarkBox to shine. Like many DTC companies and other subscription-based services, BarkBox saw an increase in business as their service, which was once deemed as merely a ‘convenience option’, became a way for people and their pets to stay safe. BarkBox allowed people to give their dogs the highest level of care without risking their own health by making a trip to the pet store.
While many companies took a hit as the world seemingly came to halt back in March 2020, BarkBox actually saw an increase in new subscribers. Suzanne McDonnell, the Chief Commercial Officer & Head of Ventures and Partnerships of Bark, credits this to the care people give to their animals, and the joy they feel as a result of their dogs being happy. As a result, the company stated that they felt confident that even during times of uncertainty, their business can still remain solid.
Doing good during this time also scored the brand big points. The company responded to the crisis by allowing more flexibility with its subscriptions, understanding that many of its customers were facing financial instability. This act of corporate kindness, coupled with the rise of online sales and pet ownership, led to loyalty from existing customers and good buzz that drew in new ones.
As BarkBox’s business increased in mid-2020, so did their presence online. The graph above shows a steep increase in mentions, primarily on YouTube, during April. Clearly, during the months of strict lockdown, BarkBox’s marketing on YouTube and podcasts thrived. Between March 2020-December 2020, the pet subscription service was mentioned over 350 times by 100 content creators - that adds up to approximately 41M views (that’s A LOT of exposure!). BarkBox received the most exposure from their sponsorship with Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution’s video - New Puppy Survival Guide: The First 24-hours which racked up over 2M views.
Interestingly, BarkBox was mostly mentioned in two content categories - lifestyle and technology. While lifestyle is pretty straightforward, the fact that the pet subscription service was mentioned the most in content related to technology is quite the surprise. However, this goes to show that this brand and its services are relevant for pretty much anyone, with any interest - opening up the doors to many sponsorship opportunities.
As the graph above highlighted, BarkBox thrived during the pandemic - people craved companionship (without needing to chitchat too much) and were excited to treat their pets exactly how they would love to be treated themselves. But, things have gone somewhat back to normal and people are enjoying their time outside the four-walls of their apartment (even flying regularly), so is BarkBox still thriving?
In short, yes - over the last year, BarkBox was mentioned approximately 1,000 times on podcasts and YouTube by 180 creators. It may be due to the flexible subscription service the brand offered during the pandemic, but pet owners are still loving BarkBox. In 2022 alone, the brand racked up over 4M views across YouTube! Interestingly, just like during 2020, BarkBox was mostly mentioned in lifestyle and technology content.
Obviously influencer marketing is a key marketing strategy for BarkBox. According to Digiday, “The most effective marketing [for BarkBox] has been customer box opening videos. People have started to do these video reviews with their dogs and putting them on YouTube. That’s been tremendous in getting [BarkBox] new customers”. Influencer marketing has definitely helped this brand amplify this strategy and strengthen its brand awareness.
BarkBox is just one of many brands that have enjoyed the success of influencer marketing. By partnering with the right influencers, the pet subscription service was able to spread brand awareness and reach its target audience. During a time when people were stuck inside and were consuming a lot of YouTube and podcasts, BarkBox jumped on the phenomenon at the time and nailed its influencer marketing campaign.
If you believe your content could be a perfect fit for BarkBox, click here to explore this sponsorship opportunity.