Marketing trends are always changing, and it's so important to stay relevant. What are the latest trends, and how does one stay abreast of them? Is it better to be an early adopter or to see which trends stick? To address these questions, we’re asking experienced CMOs and marketing executives to share their “Top 5 Marketing Trends That Leaders Need To Know.” As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Vogel.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always had an interest in art, but design became my clear passion during my senior year of high school when I enrolled in a fine arts magnet program and began applying to colleges. I went on to study at the University of Michigan and received my bachelor’s in fine arts, with a concentration in graphic design, and then attended graduate school for design at Portfolio Center in Atlanta (now the Miami Ad School).
I spent two years in grad school eating, sleeping, and breathing design, and I was exposed to the other foundational elements of the creative industry – advertising, copywriting, photography, illustration, etc. My education led me to various roles throughout my career, ultimately serving as a Creative Director. During this time, my husband, Tim Vogel, and I moved to South Florida and started a business, which ultimately evolved into Scenthound.
For most of my career, I worked on building brands for businesses across a variety of industries. To be able to take all the learnings and experience and apply it to our own business, Scenthound, has been incredibly rewarding.
It's often said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a mistake you made when you were first starting?
Early in my career, before many things turned digital, large companies invested a great deal in printed materials. For more extensive projects, a whole team of people and what seemed like infinite hours were dedicated to the production of a single document. The number of times these pieces were reviewed and proofed before going to press probably crept into the hundreds.
I was working on a client’s annual report, and—after all the back and forth, countless eyes on countless iterations, and press proofs reviewed by all involved—at the very last review once everything had been plated for printing, we noticed a typo. On the cover of the report, no less. Ironically, the report was titled ‘Continuous Improvement’ but, instead, read ‘Continuous Improvment.’
Truth be told, it wasn’t so funny at the time. We had spent months on the project, including multiple all-nighters to get it to the finish line, and it just demonstrates how easy it is for small mistakes to slip by.
To this day, I am a stickler for proofing (and proofing again). I have a low tolerance for errors and encourage my team to triple and quadruple check all their work. Careless mistakes say a lot about a company, and not in a good way, so impeccable attention to detail is just vital in my field.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you're grateful for that helped you get where you are?
There were many influential people throughout my developmental years, but one that rises to the top is Hank Richardson, who ran the design program at Portfolio Center. His dedication to the program and its students was unparalleled. His insatiable passion for design was contagious.
I think he was at school 18 hours a day, and he treated the students like we were his family. Hank was always driving us to be better, more creative, and to push the boundaries of the expected. His standards were uncompromising, and he pushed me harder than I’d ever been pushed before.
I recall one end-of-quarter critique. I’d been up all night getting my projects through the finish line, and even the smallest amount of criticism felt overwhelming. Hank noticed—he read my emotions and sat with me, holding my disappointment and letdown. He was there for me. He knew how I needed him, when I needed him. He is a true force in the creative world—a brilliant educator with an incredible knack for inspiring his students.
And, I feel compelled to add my gratitude for what my dogs have taught me—unconditional love at its finest. The power of the connection between humans and their pets can be transformational. The dogs we’ve met along the way were inspirational in creating the Scenthound concept and our dedication to keeping dogs clean, healthy and happy (which also leads to happier, healthier humans!).
Are you able to identify a 'tipping point' in your career when you started to see success? What can others learn from that?
Scenthound itself has been the biggest tipping point, and pivot, of my career.
Tim and I began the business first as a mobile dog grooming service, then eventually opened a brick-and-mortar location. Along the way, we noticed a major gap in the market and identified an important, unmet need. Traditional groomers at the time were focused on haircuts and breed-specific styling that didn’t cater to most dog breeds. So, we set out to fill the white space in the market by developing a business model that would focus on the basic hygiene and routine care that ALL dogs need.
It's been a risk tackling a whole new market space. We dug deep to identify our vision, mission, and values, and articulate brand positioning and messaging that aligned with our new model.
I’d say one of the biggest takeaways from that exercise was that starting with those basic building blocks helps everything else fall into place. Asking ourselves questions like, ‘What is our north star?’ and ‘Why do we get out of bed in the morning and do what we do?’ helped us set the stage for what the Scenthound brand is today and put us onto a path for success.
What do you think makes your company stand out?
As I mentioned, we identified an unmet need in an enormous market and are on a mission to fill the gap. Our services are unlike anything else in the marketplace in that we provide basic hygiene services so that all dogs get the proactive and preventive care they need to stay clean and healthy.
We recently received a review from a dog parent who had brought in her dog for monthly care service, and our team was able to call her attention to a skin issue they noticed on the dog. Our staff recommended the customer take the pup to their veterinarian to get it checked out. In the review, the customer reported that they were able to catch a significant health concern before it became a potentially life-threatening problem.
We hear this kind of story all the time, and it’s what drives us to do what we do. The fact that we were able to proactively identify an issue with this dog and notify the parent ultimately prevented a bigger health issue, which is the exact basis of our model and is tremendously gratifying on a personal level.
Are you working on any exciting projects now? Tell us about it!
Tons! Having spent most of my career building brands, one initiative that I’m really excited about is a new product line we are developing. The proactive wellness-focused retail products, called Houndswell®, will help us further our mission to keep dogs clean and healthy—inside and out. The line, to be sold exclusively at Scenthound locations, will include a variety of take-home solutions that our customers can use between visits to keep their dogs on the path to wellness.
Additionally, we’re always expanding and have 27 new locations slated to open by the end of June. Opening new ‘Scenters’ is always exciting, as we get to amplify our impact by bringing basic hygiene and routine care services to even more dogs in new markets.
As a CBO, you’re at the forefront of the marketing space and leading diverse teams. What resources or tools do you use to stay abreast of the ever-changing landscape?
The amount of information in today's world is fast-moving and can be overwhelming, so it's important to leverage reliable resources with expert insights while balancing this with sources that give you direct intel from your customers or influential figures.
Traditional resources like trade magazines, articles or even books (I’m a fan of the old-fashioned paper kind), are important sources for best practices and research, but what they don’t necessarily do is provide a real-time read on what is happening in the marketplace. Consumers are always one of the first places I turn for a temperature check on what’s resonating. Social media – from LinkedIn to TikTok – also helps round out perspective and illuminates a balance of industry-focused information with the ideas of thought leaders and creators. It’s critically important to keep a pulse on what’s going on out there, and not just in the industry, but behaviorally and culturally as well.
In your experience, is it possible to forecast upcoming trends? How does this process work?
Yes, forecasting is possible—to a degree. I think one of the best ways to predict marketing trends is to look at generational behaviors. Observe what’s important to key demographics, how they’re experiencing, consuming, investing, etc. Those observations can give tremendous insight into what’s sticking and what trends are on the rise.
We are currently paying close attention to the purchasing behaviors of Millennials and Gen Zers because they make up the largest portion of pet spending in the U.S. A lot of our brand tools and resources are developed with those generations and their behaviors top of mind.
In marketing, would you say it’s better to be an early adopter of trends or wait to see if they stick before allocating resources?
Scenthound is a pioneering business model, so we rely on early adopters to act as brand advocates to help grow our brand. Given that, I’d have to say we favor early adoption. If you are one of the first to adopt a new trend, and it has staying power, the benefits are long-term and can open doors. Early adopters are often seen as leaders in their space, which can fast-track brand recognition that is invaluable for growing businesses.
Of course, there are cons to that approach. Being the first to adopt a trend is risky, and it typically takes trial-and-error, which can be costly, time-consuming, and frustrating without any guarantees of what will or won’t work.
It basically comes down to a risk/reward calculation and, of course, different situations call for different approaches.
What are some of the past trends that you embraced? What results did you see?
In recent years, there has been a significant shift towards customization and personalization of products and services. Watching the trend and recognizing the changing behaviors of consumers, we incorporated this approach when developing our business model. Everyone has different needs and preferences, and it’s important to communicate that your brand can meet those needs for each individual.
At Scenthound, the memberships and our services are completely customizable because, like people, no two dogs are the same. The only thing all breeds have in common is that they all need basic hygiene. Beyond that, we help our customers determine what routine is right for their dog specifically. People want to be treated as individuals and they want the same for their dogs. In 2022 alone, we welcomed nearly 20,000 new memberships and serviced almost 50,000 dogs, and those numbers continue to grow.
Can you share a time when a strategy didn’t deliver the results you expected and what you learned from the experience?
After pivoting from traditional grooming to a more wellness-focused concept, our first location of the Scenthound model didn’t offer haircuts. Our services and messaging were focused strictly on hygiene and regular maintenance. We found that our approach was a little too avant-garde for the time. While 9 of the top 10 breeds owned in the U.S. don’t require haircuts, consumers had a hard time understanding what routine dog care meant and recognizing that their dogs needed it.
We quickly learned the importance of the ability to pivot with the needs of consumers. The greater market wasn’t quite ready for our innovative model, and we needed to spend some time educating consumers on how critical some basic care is to the overall health of their dogs. We incorporated haircuts back into the model to address the needs we were seeing in the market, and now focus our attention on educating dog parents on proactive, preventive care.
Many recent trends in the marketplace have made our audience much more receptive to the business model today. We definitely did a lot of learning in the process—when you’re pioneering a new concept, education is critical, and timing is everything.
What factors should leaders consider before jumping on a trend?
Before hopping on the bandwagon, it’s always wise to consider how long a trend has been in the market, its staying power, and if it’s a fit for the business model. Trends move quickly, so before putting time, energy, and dollars behind something, think about the long-term benefits.
For example, a social media trend aligned with your brand position that takes minimal resources, and has viral potential—well, that trend is low risk, high potential reward. But bigger marketing decisions, such as brand partnerships, for example, obviously need to go through more stringent consideration to ensure the resources to execute effectively are available and that the results will be worth the cost.
ROI should, of course, always be considered, although keep in mind, an investment in brand recognition and awareness can be hard to quantify yet is still vitally important. There will always be risk associated with business decisions, but it’s important to make well thought out, research-based choices to ensure viability and potential before jumping into the latest trend.
As a Chief Brand Officer, what do you think are the top five marketing trends leaders should know about in 2023?
- Positive and Personalized Brand Experiences – How consumers experience a brand should be top-of-mind these days, especially in an industry dominated by Millennial spending. The younger generations are prioritizing experience and are all about personalization and, in our digitalized world, everyone can be a brand advocate or a critic. A positive or negative experience can be instantly shared, whether tweeted, snapped, or tok’d. Considering and investing in the way consumers perceive your brand is key.
- Short, Digestible Content – Our attention spans are shrinking. Short and quippy Instagram or Tik Tok reels, to-the-point messaging and digestible online content will win the day in today’s climate.
- Emphasis on Emotional Connection – The most successful brands in 2023 will be those that create an emotional connection with their customers. We have a leg up in this area since our brand is built around removing barriers so people can love and connect with their dogs. Who doesn’t love a clean, happy, healthy dog? For brands without the ‘puppy love’ advantage, it's important that marketers find the emotional touchpoints that resonate with their customers and put those at the forefront of brand messaging.
- A Focus on Value Alignment - While value alignment between a brand and its consumers is different from emotional connection, it’s equally important. People typically choose brands with values that resonate with their own, such as community involvement or environmental consciousness. Being crystal clear on company values is a way to humanize a brand and deepen customer connection. To reach customers who align with your brand on a deeper level, it's a good idea to weave your company values into consumer messaging.
- The Power of Third-Party Validation – Customers have a lot of control over brand perception in today’s world. People are vetting brands more than ever before, relying on influencers, bloggers, journalists, or online reviewers to do the trial-and-error for them. Because of this, marketers should remain very focused on reputation management, and follow a strategy that includes eliciting and leveraging positive third-party advocacy to gain new customers and earn their trust and loyalty.
Lastly, you're a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring a great amount of good, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger!
Scenthound IS a movement—to bring health and happiness to dogs and their people! A movement for dog wellness if you will. Research clearly shows that dogs make people happier and healthier, which instructs our guiding principle to remove barriers so that people can love and connect more with their dogs. At its core, our business is about love. We are driven by a mission to improve the overall health of dogs across the nation, and in turn, bring a little more love and connection into people’s lives every day.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
To learn more about Scenthound, you can visit Scenthound.com. We’re also on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram. Those interested in franchise opportunities can learn more at Franchise.Scenthound.com.