Winner of a 2023 Commerce & Shopper Effie Award for Single-Retailer Program: Mass Merchants
Objectives: Walmart needed to gain market share in the pet category that was being impacted by increased competition from specialty and other retailers. As Walmart’s strategic partner, Mars Petcare was asked to develop a unique portfolio program that would fill this need.
The primary objective was to drive category growth at Walmart by winning new pet families and bringing back lapsed and leaked shoppers who were buying their pet supplies elsewhere. To accomplish this, the program needed to establish Walmart as a caring, trusted destination for their pet needs.
Target Audience: The primary target was pet-owning adult Walmart shoppers (18+) across the U.S. who may or may not have been shopping the category at the retailer. The ideal shopper had an interest in animal welfare and “feel good” content about dogs or cats, had previously participated in charitable programs of any type, and who spent a relatively high amount of money on pet supplies.
Shopper Insights: While it’s common industry knowledge that people seek out pet food options that address their own human health concerns, we approached the challenge at Walmart by asking what other human concerns might be addressed through pet food.
Research indicated that 57% of Walmart shoppers who buy their pet food at a specialty retailer would be more likely to purchase a brand that supported a social cause they care about.
And a great “human” cause wasn’t hard to find at Walmart: In 2021, the retailer was in the 8th year of a successful partnership with Feeding America to “Fight Hunger” among U.S. families. Understanding that pets are typically considered part of the family, an idea for the campaign quickly emerged: Build on Walmart’s initiative to fight hunger for humans by extending it to pets.
Core Idea: The “Extend A Paw” program gave shoppers a simple way to show their love for needy pets: Mars Petcare would donate one meal to an animal shelter or rescue center with every qualifying purchase of its brands (Pedigree, IAMS, Nutro or Temptations) at Walmart. This way, whenever they fed their own pet, these shoppers would feel as good about where they bought the food as they did about the product itself.
Activation: Execution of the two-month program in 2021 was a true omnichannel effort. In-store, the campaign came to life through brand-specific endcaps and pallet displays that gave Mars Petcare’s portfolio of brands widespread exposure in high-traffic locations. Content on Walmart Radio and the Walmart TV Wall ensured that all Walmart shoppers would hear the central message.
Digital executions included onsite and offsite display media coordinated through Walmart Connect, as well as a customized brand page on Walmart.com that presented details about the program, the supporting products, and Greater Good Charities, the charitable partner who facilitated the meal donations. In-store materials directed shoppers to the brand page to learn more.
Mars Petcare’s partners contributed to the activation as well: Walmart supported through email, social messaging, internal communications, and home page POV placements; Greater Good Charities issued a media release and conducted other PR efforts.
Results: In one way, the Extend a Paw program was a success before it even launched: Walmart Marketing was so impressed with the plan that it selected Extend a Paw as a OneWalmart program, which helped earn Mars Petcare an incredible 12,000 incremental in-store displays along with the aforementioned additional media support.
Petcare brands enjoyed a double-digit sales lift at Walmart during the campaign, with one-third of buyers being first-time purchasers. The program helped significantly grow Walmart’s share of the pet category by a significant. Campaign ROI was 7:1, well above industry norms.
The Extend a Paw program generated 51.2 million digital impressions among existing and new pet parents, exceeding the goal by 170% and helping to establish Mars Petcare and Walmart as companies that love pets as much as their owners do.
The campaign succeeded from the pet lover’s perspective as well, with Mars Petcare easily achieving its maximum donation goal of 2.5 million meals for needy pets.
The unique driving force behind this campaign wasn’t any specific tactic but instead was the truly collaborative planning process — which ultimately helped Mars Petcare establish an exceptionally strong presence within Walmart. By working together from the outset, Mars Petcare and Walmart were able to align on goals, share ideas, and expand the media plan to execute a campaign that delivered maximum impact in stores and online.
About The Mars Agency
The Mars Agency is an award-winning, independently owned, global commerce marketing practice. With talent around the world, they connect people, technology, and intelligence to create demand and drive profitable, sustainable growth. Learn more at themarsagency.com.