by Federico Dedeu (@FedeDedeu) The petfluencer — this is a portmanteau that shouldn’t have marketing weight and yet it’s managed to corner a significant part of the global market and is seeing a rising popularity in South Africa. Grumpy Cat, that perpetually frowning kitty, has managed to launch an entire car range. There are agencies dedicated to representing famous pets from around the world, and both people and brands are lapping up the love.

The world’s most-followed pet, Jiffpom, had 7.73m followers as of January 2018 — that’s 7.73m people tuning into Insta to watch a Pomeranian wear clothes, look cute and generally just drop money into his owner’s lap.

Roaring trade

It’s easy to imagine that petfluencers are a roaring trade across both ponds; after all, the influencer market is more mature on international shores and there is slightly more openness to the idea that a pet could be a celebrity. However, the South African petfluencer market is experiencing significant growth, with some pretty nifty petfluencers glowing with cuteness on mobile screens. Three of the most popular are:

These aren’t the only pets to have enough of a following to gain brand attention and influencer platform recognition. _piggyinthemiddle_ , max_and_willow, and loiustheweim are also gaining rapid traction in SA. All of these Instagram accounts are about dogs, which is a little same-same compared with international influencers, but their popularity is indicative of a growing trend.


One of the biggest reasons behind the rapid rise of the petfluencer is the emotions they inspire. Social media is often a maelstrom of shouting matches, angry videos, trolls, spam and rage. The seas of calm are rare, and many people are turning to pet social channels to cut out the negativity — something sweet to counteract the bitterness. The daft behaviours, the ability to relax completely, their talent for wearing the latest furry fashion with aplomb. Petfluencers make people happy.

Their popularity is further reinforced by the fur baby economy — Gale found that 44% of millennials sees their pets as starter children, making this a powerful place for brands to place their, well, paws… This generation loves the cute and often sets the pets up in real-world situations, dressed up to look like fuzzy people being adorable in generally fairly banal settings. Who could not love a Pomeranian reading the paper? Very few people, that’s who.

Some of the most-popular breeds tend to be pugs and French bulldogs, although cats with a certain personality twist tend to do well, too. These breeds are very good for brands looking to build awareness as they’re often featured on newsfeeds and have very loyal followings. What the pet has that the standard selfie-taking influencer doesn’t is a sense of relaxed engagement. A person artistically holding up a bag of dog food can’t hold a candle to a puppy having a lie down next to a full bowl of that very food. Petfluencers tend to deliver better engagement, allow for more-creative content development and may endorse a variety of products, from pet food to beds to toys. Because petfluencers make people happy, they’re a great fit for brands that want their ads and engagement to generate that sense of goodwill.


Some of the most noteworthy brands that have used petfluencers include The Body Shop, Fanta, Coca-Cola, Flying Fish, Ford, Katy Perry, Friskies, Persil, Toyota and Mercedes-Benz. The reality is that, where there’s an imagination, brands now have a way of engaging with people through the furry parts of their hearts.

The success of the petfluencer is driven by a number of different reasons, ranging from their ability to transcend gender, age and culture to their being accessible and entertaining and so much more. And now is the time to do it.


Federico DedeuFederico Dedeu (@FedeDedeu) is EMEA business development lead at indaHash,  a global tech platform connecting social media influencers and their followers to brands around the world. Based in Johannesburg, Federoco is an industry veteran with more than 18 years of experience in marketing and advertising, and has held positions at some of the leading advertising and media agencies in South Africa. He has led accounts for brands such as Coca-Cola and Standard Bank.

“Motive” is a by-invitation-only column on Contributors are picked by the editors but generally don’t form part of our regular columnist lineup, unless the topic is off-column.

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