DTC Innovators: Zesty Paws’ VP of Marketing Yvethe Tyszka

DTC pet supplements brand Zesty Paws has launched its first-ever national television campaign, and is running ads during the NFL Playoffs. Brand Innovators caught up with Yvethe Tyszka, VP of Marketing at Zesty Paws, to discuss the new campaign launch, retail expansion and pandemic puppies.

Online pet supplements brand Zesty Paws has been selling its pet vitamins direct-to-consumer since 2014, but last year it hit the shelves in retailers such as Target, PetSmart and Chewy.

Two major consumer trends of the past year are helping the DTC brand grow – CPG shopping has skyrocketed and pet adoption has increased massively, both behaviors driven by people’s spending more time at home. To tap into these behavioral changes and reach new audiences, the DTC brand has launched its first-ever national television campaign, airing during the NFL Playoffs.

“We as a brand were very excited to share with more consumers via our TV campaigns what supplements can do for their pets and pet ownership,” said Yvethe Tyszka, VP of Marketing at Zesty Paws.

The eight-week “Keep Your Bestie Feeling Zesty” campaign targets dog owners across the country through cross-channel marketing, using social media, search, email, and television in conjunction with broadcasts during the NFL Playoffs leading up to the Super Bowl.

The campaign includes two different commercials – a 15-second spot and a 30-second spot – which promote the connection between pet health and Zesty Paws’ products Mobility, Aller-Immune, Calming Bites, and Probiotic Bites.

“There are so many strong moments that can come from ‘Keeping Your Bestie Feeling Zesty,’” said Tyszka. “Both pets and owners are each other’s best friends, and they keep each other feeling healthy and zesty.”

As the pandemic has seen pet adoption grow, the pet food and treat category is also expected to increase by 7% to $31 billion in 2020, according to PetFood Processing.net. Sales are expected to increase at 5.5% in both 2021 and 2022.

Brand Innovators caught up with Tyszka from Miami to discuss the new campaign launch, retail expansion and pandemic puppies. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What is the strategy behind the new campaign?

With this campaign, the mission was to bring to life the joy that our fur babies bring into our lives. For our Zesty Paws consumers, their cats or dogs are their babies. They are treated like family and they bring so much happiness to their lives. We wanted to bring that to life in our TV commercial. We wanted to share that whether your dog needs help with her hip, relief from seasonal allergies, or a little bit of help with bloating or gas, there is a Zesty Paws supplement for each one of those needs. We are using a direct-to-retail approach by showing our availability at PetSmart, Target, Amazon, Chewy, and on our direct website.

Who are you targeting and what media buys are you making to reach this audience?

On the media targeting side, we want to reach pet parents from ages 25-64 that are very deeply connected with their dogs or cats. We work our media plan in a way which we could land both high-profile and direct-to-consumer media so that we are building our brand as well as our business. It’s a combination of both. We are doing direct-to-retail which is unique for this type of product.

A lot of TV campaigns tend to be purely driven to a website or a phone number, but we also want to make sure that our business partners benefit from this awareness effort. As far as media buy, we have high-profile spots in the news specifically, which give us exposure and mainly because news is live, like sports. You also have other vehicles like Animal Planet which are obviously well-aligned with our target audience.

We have more of a younger demographic, for first-time pet parents, we reach them through Country Music TV, MTV, Comedy Central, and VH1. In the past 7-9 months during the pandemic, we’ve seen that our overnight media placements have gained lots of traction and success. So, we are betting on that trend to continue. We also have another demographic which is families, for them we use channels like Hallmark and Pop, which are skewed more female. As opposed to ESPN and American Heroes which are more skewed male. We are reaching out to all members of the family that own pets. Then, we also have placements on channels such as Cooking or Discovery, which help us reach everyone in between young pet parents and families in general.

Why are the NFL playoffs key to this campaign's broadcast?

It is a combination of the fact that sports is one of the two programs, along with media, that is viewed live, so you get a lot more eyes and a lot more interest in the commercials happening during sports. It also helps us get tremendous reach and interest in our creative, because you are not only reaching a lot of eyes live, but also reaching the right eyes, the right demographic we are going after. The families or young pet parents will be watching sports live. We don’t have to worry about DVR, these people will be paying more attention because it is the NFL playoffs.

How are digital channels supporting the broadcast?

That is an important part of our strategy. We want to make sure that we reach the pet parents wherever they are. We know they are on social media, we know they actually get information about pet supplements from Instagram or Facebook. We want to make sure that when they are searching, we can remind them of the campaign. We have adapted the campaign to all the digital channels so that wherever someone goes, they will see a reminder of our advertising and we can increase awareness about our category. Pet supplements is a category with relatively low awareness, but when pet parents realize that it exists and all the good it can do for their fur babies, they tend to react really positively. We want to bring that category awareness and show them that Zesty Paws is the right supplement for their dog or cat.

We are going to do some tweaks on the digital side during the Super Bowl time, but in general we don’t want to abandon the rest of our digital targeting for younger people or women, but we will definitely be tweaking our media a bit around the Super Bowl to increase our relevance on searches, display, and Youtube.

How does this campaign support the company's overall branding pillars?

First off, this is our very first TV campaign. It’s really helping support our pillars of being a fun brand that has functional supplements with proven ingredients. It’s exciting to see, on the heels of a successful 2020, that our consumers are seeing all the innovation that we bring, with our product that has such functional components. They know that our ingredients are going to help their dog or their cat and support their overall wellness. Those are the brand pillars we want to support.

There were also a lot of new pet adoptions that happened in 2020, and we want to give new pet parents the tools they need to give their new babies a healthy start which will improve their quality of life. What we have seen in both our qualitative and quantitative research is that pet parents understand that pets don’t live as long as humans, so they want those years to be full of health, wellness, and high-quality life. They see supplements as the gateway towards that.

Has the increase in adoptions impacted your marketing?

I think it has. Part of our campaigns is bringing our awareness tactics to a different level due to the amount of new pet owners 2020 brought. If we can give them more tools to truly have that good relationship with their pets. I’m sure it’s no secret that people often get into pet ownership without a lot of knowledge. 2020 was a more of a year like that: People are home and alone, and they don’t understand all the responsibilities of pet ownership. We want to help them solidify that relationship, give them tools for their pets to have a more rounded experience. If you think of our Calming Bites, they have a practical usage as pet owners might be returning to their offices and their pets are anxious. You can help your pet manage their anxiety with a functional chew, a Calming Bite. It’s these things that we can help them with.

After a year that required a lot of pivoting, how are you approaching marketing plans for 2021?

I think it has given us a lot more of a solid foundation to increase awareness, to increase activation efforts, because there are so many more pet parents and they are aware of what wellness brings to pet ownership. For example, they don’t want to go to the vet all the time, they don’t want to go to the doctor all the time themselves, so they take their own supplements. 87% of people who give supplements to their pets take supplements themselves so they understand the benefits of it.

We want to bring those benefits to more people and make them aware that pet supplements exist and show them why Zesty Paws is the right answer for them. In order to do that, we need to scale up awareness efforts and make sure that our digital efforts are aligned with those TV efforts so that the branding is cohesive and we are impactful. That’s what we will be focusing on this year.

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