The Guarantee
April 18

Dogs + Vodka = Winning Marketing Strategy

New York Times best-selling author, Robert Cialdini, is known for his expertise on the subject of persuasion — specifically the role it plays in driving consumers to purchase.

In his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Cialdini cites six key principles of influence — one being the concept of “liking.” In its simplest form, this principle states that consumers are more easily persuaded to make a purchase by people they like. “Liking,” in this sense, doesn’t mean there is necessarily friendship. It is about discovering common attributes. Sales reps who draw attention to commonalities with prospects have a greater chance of closing the sale. The same holds true for your marketing effort.

Sometimes the creation of a commonality with the broader marketplace is a no-brainer, as is the case with beloved outdoor retailer REI which hires outdoor enthusiasts and then promotes their adventures through the brand’s marketing efforts. Not only can you read about employee camping and hiking adventures on their site, but consumer adventures as well. The principle of “liking” says that if you love the outdoors and can relate to other people who do, you’re more likely to love the REI brand and make a purchase.

What if you’re running a business without an obvious consumer commonality? Vodka maker Tito’s could have gone the traditional route of appealing to consumers with a similar preference for vodka quality and flavor, but that group of enthusiasts is limited and the connection doesn’t quite form the bond that you’d see, for example, between an animal rescue and its followers. So, the Tito’s brand took a nontraditional approach, as documented by Roger Dooley, author of Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing.

Banking on the fact that 81 percent of those with a dog consider their dog to be a member of the family, Tito’s opted to market itself as “Vodka for Dog People.” By implying that they are dog lovers just like us, they are creating Cialdini-style “liking,” says Dooley. The Tito’s slogan goes beyond “liking,” and aims for Cialdini’s recently added seventh principle, unity. Unity is “liking” on steroids. Unity goes beyond shared attributes — it’s based on shared identity. It can be familial, tribal or some other characteristic that a person feels is part of “me,” Dooley adds.

Doubling down on this consumer connection, Tito’s sells branded merchandise on its website for dogs — such as water bowls, bandanas, sweaters and toys — and supports animal-related causes. Has it worked? Tito’s holds the coveted number one spot in the vodka category.

The takeaway is to explore opportunities to align your brand with a cause or passion that’s beyond simply the way your consumers use your products or services. Get creative to emotionally engage the market in a way that truly differentiates.

Lori Turner-Wilson, CEO and founder of RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at

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