Case Study: BarkBox and National Squirrel Appreciation Day
How BarkBox Revolutionized National Squirrel Appreciation Day
Do you celebrate National Squirrel Appreciation Day?
Honestly, most people don’t even know when it is. It’s January 21st, by the way. So if you’re like everyone else and have never heard of National Squirrel Appreciation Day, we don’t blame you. However, this year’s NSA Day caught the attention of many social media users thanks to an ingenious campaign by BarkBox. The pet product company created a frenzy in January when they put out a marketing campaign aimed to build brand awareness. FYI: they crushed it!
It all started when BarkBox’s account was ‘taken hostage’ by squirrels looking to get revenge. Apparently, BarkBox had previously sent out a walnut toy that was extremely popular. Because of this, the squirrels claimed BarkBox drained their food supply (we can’t make this up!).
The company launched the campaign by splitting a photo into a grid on their Instagram feed. The grid showed a hostile squirrel declaring all BarkBox employees were in grave danger if the squirrels didn’t get their nuts back. As a result, the campaign garnered incredible engagement from followers, who were more than happy to play along with the ‘hostage takeover’.
Who is BarkBox?
If you’re not familiar with this company, BarkBox is a monthly subscription service for dog products. They offer themed boxes that include dog treats, chews, and toys. Every product has an amusing name with an even more creative product description.
Check out one of their most popular toys to date, Penny the Pineapple. This toy has a plush exterior with an extra toy hidden inside. Penny’s product description goes on to say, “Not to skewer the girl, but Penny is not all that she seems. When your dog tears through her happy exterior, a sadder Penny is revealed. Crazy crinkle leaves only add to the drama.”
What makes BarkBox loved by millions of pet owners is that they can customize box contents to fit their dog’s needs. For example, dogs who are tough chewers can benefit from their Super Chewer option that offers more durable toys. Or, if your dog isn’t treat-motivated and is more interested in playing, you can get all toys instead of anything edible, and so on. All customers have to do is give them a quick call and they can decide what comes in their pet’s box each month.
How BarkBox won National Squirrel Appreciation Day
On the 21st, BarkBox changed all of their social media profiles to make it seem like squirrels had taken over their accounts. They changed any relevant information like bios, banners, and whatever else, to close up photos of aggressive-looking squirrels. Their post captions consisted of aggressive threats from the squirrels and included even more threatening photos.
A small number of followers were confused, but most happily went along with it. Check out the hilarious screenshots below to see the type of incredible engagement they received from the campaign.
It started with this squirrel photo that says “Down with BarkBox”. Then they added a Pirates of the Carribean meme to really make their point that these squirrels weren’t messing around:
Notice the response from one of the ‘squirrels’ when a follower was confused as to what was happening:
Even dog accounts began commenting on BarBox’s behalf, determined to save the day:
It’s important to note that there wasn’t a single call-to-action encouraging people to buy anything in these posts. The campaign created tons of user-generated content, which some experts believe is the best type of content. Obviously, the situation was a joke and for entertainment purposes only – but pet owners were whole-heartedly invested in what was happening and felt like they needed to chime in. That is every marketer’s dream!
One example of user-generated content that came from the squirrel crisis:
On Instagram alone, the campaign resulted in tens of thousands of likes. Days later, BarkBox even put out an “official” statement saying their account had been hacked. They drove the campaign even further by acting like it was a real PR scandal. One statement said, “Not going to lie, being hacked is a social media team’s worst nightmare. The squirrels took our Facebook. The squirrels took @BarkBox. The squirrels took @BARK. They even took our Instagram Stories.”
What marketing companies can learn from BarkBox’s campaign
Nowadays, people expect brands to engage with them. In the past, the goal of marketing was to tell people what to buy. Companies are now seeing that engaging with audiences creates a connection that turns leads into loyal customers.
Content engagement is important to measure because it shows how much people enjoy what you’re producing. It also gives a snapshot of how well your business is doing overall. As a general rule, the more people are talking about you – the better off your business is.
Today, marketing is all about social connection and how human your brand is. This is because audiences want to speak to companies, and not just be told what to buy. When there is an emotional connection to a brand, consumers are loyal, and more willing to buy.
Side Note: Learn how consumers connect to companies through their brand’s personality, and how you can create a distinct personality for your brand.
BarkBox’s NSA day fiasco is a great example of how brands can encourage consumers to engage with your brand. Rather than telling customers what to do next, BarkBox found a creative way to get people talking about them. We know that consumers, specifically Gen Zers, want to have an entire experience when engaging with a brand.
Audiences no longer respond to campaigns that simply tell them something, like “shop our sale” or “click the link to get XYZ”. They want to be immersed in an experience and deeply connect with your brand. To successfully implement marketing efforts geared toward engagement, leads, and more, focus on how you can connect with your target audience and build a campaign from there.
All in all, kudos to BarkBox for being so creative with their National Squirrel Appreciation Day antics. They effectively turned a strange and random holiday into a successful campaign. If you want similar results for your business, you need to create an engaging experience that will excite audiences. Plus, if you do it right, you might have articles praising you one day!
To become a better storyteller like BarkBox, contact us to help you with your digital marketing efforts!