Creative Printing for . . . Pet Lovers’ Photo Gifts

Creative Printing for . . . Pet Lovers’ Photo Gifts

When marketing to the family, don’t forget the four-legged members.

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When marketing to the family, don’t forget the four-legged members.

People love their pets, especially when they’re caught on camera. According to Slate.com columnist Daniel Engber, the charming pet phenomena plays out over two different media: “Kittens rule the Internet and puppies reign in print.” So while cute felines own social media by a margin of three to one (1.8 billion hits), dogs dominate Amazon book titles by nearly the same ratio. No matter who comes out ahead in cyberspace, we know people love pictures of their pets, which makes them an ideal market for photo memory gifts.

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Personalized Pooch’s rhinestone-studded photo purse

Susan Gray, owner of Personalized Pooch, is one of many online shop owners who cater exclusively to pet owners. Longtime owner of a Minnesota-based brick-and-mortar stationery store, she was disappointed with her own experiences ordering personalized photo gifts online. As a result, she was determined to come up with products that reflected the sophistication and quality she strove for in her stationery business. In 2003, Gray combined her love for animals and her gift market expertise to start personalizedpooch.com.

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Woven photo throws are one of Personalized Pooch’s best sellers.

Gray took a team approach to photo gift design, production and sales. “I realized right away that I wasn’t a designer, so I hired a professional stationery designer and graphic artist to help create my products,” she says, “along with a marketing specialist to handle advertising and social media.”

Social media and Internet visibility are critical to Gray’s marketing strategy. While she advertises with traditional print publications like Modern Dog, she recently hired a company to help boost holiday traffic on her website and Facebook pages. The team will focus on search engine optimization (SEO) to drive new visitors to her website, along with targeted Facebook advertising to reach her core audience—dedicated pet parents.

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Personalized Pooch specializes in pet-centric stationery and wrapping paper.

Gray’s product line is diverse, ranging from pet-centric stationery and holiday wrapping paper to hand-painted Christmas tree ornaments, wine glasses and high-quality jacquard throws. While Personalized Pooch offers gifts in every price range, including $18 coffee mugs with “Pet Mom” themes, price doesn’t seem to deter customers who are looking for the perfect gift to pay tribute to their pets. The woven throws, which range in price from $106 to $176, are one of her most popular items, and similarly priced rhinestone-studded purses make exclusive alternatives to standard canvas photo bags.

The biggest difference in catering to the personalized pet market is the memorial gift. “I estimate that about one-third of my orders are for pets that have passed,” says Gray. “And grieving owners frequently want gifts that display the years their pet lived, so we include that option in many of our product designs.”

Etched crystal décor also serves as a beautiful tribute to lost pets or an elegant method of displaying their portraits in the home or office. Las Vegas-based 3D Laser Gifts began engraving crystal photo gifts in 2005, selling through dealers and photo shops. Five years later, they established an online store, allowing them to sell directly to consumers. The website, 3Dlasergifts.com, now accounts for 99% of the company’s orders and incorporates successful affiliate, dealer and distributor programs, including a number of online shops that sell exclusively pet products.

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3D Laser Gifts’ tabletop displays are sold with or without a lighted stand.

The 3D Laser design process, which involves scanning two-dimensional photos and mapping them into three-dimensional models, can produce up to 10,000,000 dots in a single crystal. The higher the image quality, the better the final result. Pets’ names, descriptions and dates are added using the same process. In addition to tabletop displays, sold with or without a lighted stand, 3D Laser Gifts sells crystal ornaments and lighted key chains—both popular photo gifts.

Debbie Daanen and Ashley Schmit, partners in an Appleton, Wisconsin, portrait studio, added photo gifts as a service several years ago, when they saw that customers were looking for new options to display their family portraits. In order to stay on the cutting edge of their profession, Daanen and Schmit established the online gift store Trinkets, a division of Debbie Daanen Photography.

“We are first and foremost a portrait studio and our main revenue comes from printed portraits,” says Schmit, “but with the addition of gift items, we’re able to offer alternative options for those photo lovers looking for something a bit different.” They advertise their photo gift store with a link on their website and by displaying sample products in the studio. They also show their most popular items at photo shoots for sports leagues and dance schools, where approximately 25% of sales are from photo gifts.

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Trinkets, a division of Debbie Daanen Photography, offers one-of-kind photo collars.

In addition to the studio’s professional portraits, Trinkets sells gifts made from customers’ snapshots. Pets are popular subjects, printed on everything from photo tiles to can coolers. So it made sense to offer gifts specifically targeted at pet photography, a service the studio lists under Children’s Portraits (for four-legged kids). Their products include one-of-kind, photo collars and ID tags printed with an image instead of the pet’s name. “New products are an excellent way to get clients excited about their portraits,” says Schmit.

Debbie Daanen Photography also promotes its pet portraiture and gift sales through local businesses and fundraisers. “We’re currently working with an animal hospital to decorate their walls with portraits of the veterinarians and their pets. Every year, we do a large fundraiser for local pet shelters, photographing pets alone or with their humans at a reduced price,” Schmit explains. “Proceeds go to a charity of the client’s choice.”

One of the most unusual photo gifts we found comes from Atlanta, where web developer Mark Anderson found a way to combine his love of photography, web design and humor to celebrate people and pets alike. He founded Stampics.com in 2005, a website that allows customers to turn their favorite photos into real rubber stamps. Subjects range from goofy mustaches hanging on seemingly normal people to personalized return address stamps and Greatest Pet awards.

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Stampics creates photo-realistic rubber stamps of favorite pets.

Anderson uses a high-quality technology he found in Asia to create photo-realistic rubber stamps. “It’s not a traditional rubber stamp,” he says. “We use a flash process to transfer 1,200-dpi negative files of the image to a sheet of rubber. The high resolution gives the stamps incredible detail.” Unlike traditional stamp makers, Stampics delivers pocket-size, self-inking stamps in an airtight plastic case. “Each stamp is hand edited, but we generally ship next day, so turnaround time is very quick.”

The website is designed to be fun and typically attracts people with “a quirky sense of humor,” according to Anderson. “Some people immediately see the humor in our products and they want one.” Stampics offers a complete line of funny, ready-made “stamp memes,” but the majority of sales, about 90%, are personalized stamps. They’re popular with pet lovers who like to carry their best friend wherever they go.

Until recently, customers were asked to describe the size and layout of their personalized stamps, but last year Anderson’s staff created a series of templates that visitors can use to fashion their final product. Current pet offerings include “World’s Greatest,” “You’re a Star,” “Hero” and several do-it-yourself badges with space to add the pet’s name and title. You can even drop the pet’s photo into a holiday ornament or return address stamp.

“We’ll be coming up with more Christmas templates this year before the holidays,” says Anderson. “And we plan to keep coming out with new, fun and seasonal stamps.” He’s working on several new lines of stamps. One will be edited with a newspaper-style dot-matrix pattern, another with Simpson-style caricatures and generic cartoon caricatures made from customers’ photos.

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