Loni Edwards is the founder and managing partner of The Dog Agency, the first and only talent management agency focused on pet influencers. The Dog Agency exclusively manages the top pet influencers in the world such as Tuna Melts My Heart, Crusoe the Dachshund, Harlow and Sage, The Dogist and many more.
Edwards started her career in law, graduating from Harvard Law School and working at a top law firm before becoming an entrepreneur. Prior to starting The Dog Agency, she founded a fashion technology company called emPOWERED that held the utility patent on adding phone charging capabilities to bags, wallets and luggage.
While running emPOWERED, Edwards got a dog, a mini Frenchie she named Chloe. She also started an Instagram account to share photos of Chloe with her family and friends. To her surprise, Chloe amassed a large following and brands starting reaching out to work with her. Edwards then found herself spending all her free time growing her own brand and meeting other pet influencers, their owners and new brands for Chloe to partner with.
Edwards is also a lawyer, so when owners of the pet influencers learned that, they would ask her for advice on contracts and deal terms that they were getting from various brands.
She soon realized that most of them were trying to build their pets’ brands and work on partnership opportunities, all while working full-time jobs and often without any experience in dealing with contracts or negotiating deals with partners.
Brands, meanwhile, were searching for potential pet influencers on Instagram, trying to track down their contact info and doing a lot of individual outreach and negotiating with each of them on an individual basis, a very inefficient process both for the brands and the owners.
“I saw the opportunity to be an advocate for pet influencers and to make partnerships with those influencers seamless for brands,” writes Edwards in an article on LinkedIn titled “Why Pets Are Now the Ideal Brand Ambassadors.” “It was the perfect mix of what I love doing, what I’m good at, and what I’d spent all of my free time over the previous two years doing.”
In the article Edwards writes that culturally, society has shifted to waiting until we’re older to have children, treating our pets as our kids and spending more and more money on them as a result. A recent study said that 68% of American households have pets and what they spend is estimated to be more than $69 billion in 2017, an increase of nearly $10 billion in just two short years.
“Our already strong bond to pets has continued to strengthen over recent years at an incredibly fast rate,” she writes. “By partnering with pet influencers, brands are able to resonate with their consumers on a deeper emotional level.”
Since she started The Dog Agency in 2015, Edwards has brought hundreds of brands together with top pet influencers, expanding far outside the traditional pet product arena.
Brands ranging from Swiffer to Urban Decay have been turning to famous social media pets to market their products.
“At first glance this might seem odd. While pets promoting pet food clearly makes sense, pets promoting makeup might make you scratch your head,” she writes. “After all, pets aren’t the consumer when it comes to these human products. There’s one main reason for the growing popularity of these partnerships — they work!”
Edwards says that pets have a unique “sharebility factor” that results in higher engagement on social media since people are much more likely to tag their friends and share pets’ posts. Pet content also has universal appeal since it’s relatable across gender, age and location, she says.
Pets have the added emotional power of humans’ innate affinity to animals, making pet influencers genuine and authentic. Looking at content that features pets makes people happy, and in turn, people associate these positive feelings with the selected brand.
“There is also a sense of brand security when partnering with pet influencers as you’ll never have to worry about the pet influencer getting drunk at a party and saying something offensive that would reflect negatively on the brand partner,” Edwards writes. “Ultimately, through pet influencers, companies are being featured in a brand-safe environment with influencers who are deeply integrated into the lives of their fans — the brands’ potential customers. It’s a win for all sides.”