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How One Marketer Drove Significant Growth By Disrupting Marketing To Gain Big Box Store Attention


During Covid, pet adoptions jumped as much as 40% and as a result, pet product, supplies, and supplements grew as well. Yvethe Tyszka, hired in July 2020 as the head of marketing for Zesty Paws, a pet supplement company founded in 2016 and recently sold to Hong Kong-based H&H Group International, used this as an opportunity to disrupt the firm’s marketing and drive significant growth for Zesty Paws.

Tyszka overhauled the brand’s marketing efforts to help the brand achieve high double-digit growth in 2020 and debuted Zesty’s first television commercial in January of 2021. The elevated marketing strategy helped to catch the attention of Target and PetSmart, expanding Zesty’s in-store distribution from 0 to 3,000 doors in less than 12 months. Below are insights about Tyszka’s disruption efforts.

Kimberly Whitler: What was Zesty’s marketing strategy before your appointment?

Yvethe Tyszka: As a digitally native brand, Zesty Paws’ strategy focused on online growth and consumer validation of our products via the social proof of customer feedback on the products’ pages. We accomplished tremendous growth and over 200,000 5-star ratings and reviews online by delivering exceptional quality products, mainly through Amazon.com and Chewy.com. In early 2020, we launched with our first retail brick and mortar partner, Target. This was the beginning of our offline distribution, which exceeded the expectations of our buyers and gained us expansion in 2021. In September of 2020 we launched our second retailer, PetSmart, in selected stores, gaining national expansion by June 2021. Through bold packaging, consumer education, and treating our fans as concerned parents, we had a solid market lead in the pet supplements market.

Whitler: Why did you change it and what specific changes did you make?

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Tyszka: I came onboard at a very exciting time as the brand was getting ready to increase category and brand awareness and dig deeper into consumer segmentation. That was the first task I tackled with the team, as we embarked on focus groups, social listening, and quantitative research, which we used to guide our audience definition. It is on the foundation of this deep consumer understanding that we built our first National TV campaign, launched in early 2020. We also leveraged these insights to build retail programs that drive category discovery, education, and penetration. We’ve worked with our retail partners to facilitate the discovery of pet supplementation by pet parents by making sure we are located where they’d naturally look for it: close to the treat aisle. The strong drive of the humanization of pets trend -90%+ of consumers see their pet as part of their family- draws a definite correlation between humans that take supplements and those that give them to their fur-babies, spending 4X+ what regular pet parents spend on pet supplements. We also have an adamant desire to underline that Zesty time (the time you give your pet their Zesty product) to be fun for both you and your fur babies. Lastly, since our data shows that our consumers parent multiple pets, we have expanded our SKU selection to include virtual bundles to give consumers the ability to purchase more while getting a value savings in return.

Whitler: What additional changes have you made in the past year?

Tyszka: We have fully embraced consumer centricity and an omnichannel approach in everything we do and have crafted strategies defined by each of our consumer segments. This has allowed us to provide content that resonates with pet parents of all types, regardless of where they are in their parenting journey, and is available wherever they browse and shop. This, coupled with best-in-class customer service, has gained us the loyalty of thousands of pet parents around the country, who trust the wellbeing of their fur babies to Zesty Paws. The amount of energy seems to have grown exponentially, be it talking to a retail partner or someone across you at the dog park, the buzz around the brand is evident more and more each day.

Whitler: What are some of the tangible results you can share?

Tyszka: As a baseline, we expanded our marketing team to six team members (and we are hiring more) to bring in dedicated expertise on areas like Product Marketing and Email marketing among others so we could dive into creating a fully omnichannel marketing campaign. We increased our social followership by 240.6% in 12 months and increased our share of voice in social and press conversations to be a leading voice in the industry. The momentum from the TV campaign and the increase in brand awareness played a large role in our conversations with buyers and allowed us to expand the brand from 0 brick and mortar stores to almost 3,000 stores with Target and PetSmart today – all in less than 18 months. We’ve established partnerships with them to elevate category awareness in pet supplementation, featuring feature Zesty Paws. One good example is a PDQ we did with PetSmart to showcase Zesty Paws as a brand block at launch. We did most stores following their traditional placement by Condition and ~60 stores via brand blocking. Since the PDQ also included category information, we knew it would help with education on the benefits and the results were very positive as brand blocking delivered incremental velocity. Based on these learnings, we then partnered with them again on an endcap located between treats and supplements which was a great location for discovery of the category and the brand.

Whitler: What is your advice to other CMOs about how to disrupt a marketing strategy to drive growth?

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Tyszka: I’d advise them to lead with passion for your team and your brand’s mission, and to always listen to your consumer and remain flexible to adapt to how they change. We like to allow talented individuals the freedom to drive in their areas of knowledge and expertise while still providing support and guidance to drive the brand in the right direction. This in turn creates a culture rich in purpose and creativity.

Join the Discussion: @KimWhitler

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