Westminster Dog Show makes debut on TikTok in bid to win over Gen Z
A TikTok video of Loki the golden retriever lounging on a couch with a bag of Fritos, interspersed with shots of flawlessly groomed dogs completing obstacles at the 2020 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show—the caption, “'my dog' versus 'other dogs'”—has garnered over 367,000 views from Gen Zers on the platform; some feat for an event that tends to attract an older audience.
The video came from Jaden Kingsley (@jadenthekingsley), who is just one of several pet-focused TikTok influencers that Glow, Westminster’s social agency of record, employed to work this year’s dog show.
“We’ve been working with Westminster Kennel Club for eight years,” says Sarah Pine, director of account services at Glow. “We’re always looking for new ways to excite the social audience.”
Pine is on the ground with her Glow team throughout the entirety of the Westminster event, which this year kicked off on Sunday, where she creates social posts on the winners and canine contenders. The event has been held annually at New York’s Madison Square Garden since its inception in 1877, but it was only eight years ago, with the hiring of Glow, that it began doing social around the event (and throughout the year with efforts like "The Road to Westminster," sponsored by Purina Pro Plan).
“Implementing TikTok into our communications strategy this year is creating a whole new layer of fan involvement,” says Gail Miller Bisher, director of communications for The Westminster Kennel Club.
“By tapping into the trends that Gen Z is pulling the levers on, we’re finding unexpected ways to fold the Westminster Dog Show into culture and reaching an entirely new audience in the process.”
It takes a certain level of dog expertise to handle the social media efforts for Westminster. One mistake, like confusing a wire fox terrier for a smooth fox terrier, could set off a Twitter firestorm among dog show enthusiasts.
Pine knows, for example, that golden retrievers are always favored (though they've never won Best in Show). That proved true when we saw Daniel—who won best of the Sporting group, the first golden retriever to do so since 2006—become this year's fan favorite, although he was eventually bested for Best in Show by Siba the standard poodle. Before the judge awarded top honors to Siba, however, the crowd could be heard in the stands chanting Daniel's name.
Pine says she was ecstatic to introduce TikTok to Westminster’s social strategy this year, and to nab top influencers like Kingsley with 991,000 followers, as well as Jared Peters (@houndhouse, 367,000 followers), Piper Gianforte (@pipergianforte, 119,000 followers) and Lori Sirois (@pugdashians, 168,000 followers).
Pine giggles at Sirois’ handle, @pugdashians, and says that was an especially good get. She says the key was finding TikTok influencers “with strong, pet-focused content” and the right audience, who would raise awareness to Westminster’s own TikTok account (@wkcdogs).
The TikTok influencers—some of whom are as young as 15 years old and had traveled from as far as Oregon to attend the show—also shared with the agency “tips and tricks” on making Westminster’s TikTok strategy more effective, Pine says.
Since launching the Westminster TikTok account a little over a week ago, it's generated 5,000 followers and more than 28,000 likes (as of Wednesday afternoon). Westminster's first video received some 20,000 views in only 24 hours.
Pine says one initial key takeaway from using TikTok for the Westminster brand is how critical song choice is—apparently knowing what Gen Zers are listening to can make or break a post. In the above post—which features two show dogs, playing and acting like the regular pooches we have at home—Glow used "Relationship" by Young Thug, featuring Future, and it garnered 318 likes as of today. Another TikTok video that used Alan Jackson's "Little Bitty," and showed small show dogs, received 4,000 likes—take what you will from that.
Still, these influencers serve a greater purpose for the Westminster brand beyond just improving its TikTok channel.
Pine notes that the addition of influencers to its own TikTok strategy, will help “introduce young folks to the sport.” She adds that attracting Gen Zers to any brand is “a challenge,” as they are much more aware of advertising—and adverse to it—than previous generations.
Having changed very little since its first show in 1877, Westminster is one of the most staid brands imaginable, and didn't even have a social media strategy until eight years ago. Pine says having a TikTok strategy throughout the year will be key to keeping young audiences engaged with Westminster.
Glow's social strategy, Pine adds, differs greatly, platform by platform. She says Facebook is where true dog show enthusiasts tend to be so the agency “has a very different conversation” surrounding the actual sport than it does with TikTok’s audience. TikTok is all about “having fun with the content” and making sure that Westminster is “having fun with the sport” while not “making fun of the sport,” a critical distinction. Pine adds that Glow uses Twitter for real-time updates on the show and Instagram is good for the “beautiful photography shots.”
Glow's social posts are continuing into Wednesday with the team following around the winning canines on their press tour which includes stops at "The View" and "Good Morning America."