In this very hard year, you marketing geniuses have created some of the most inspiring, creative, and effective communications and marketing materials we’ve ever seen. If you get a second to breathe, we hope you’ll take a good moment to feel proud of the work you’ve done. We’re sure proud of it for you.
With the caveat that it is impossible to list every post, blog, campaign, event, or video—you all are just too good and prolific!—we’ve collected 10 of them that made us and everyone else laugh, weep, and act (plus another five bonus examples; we couldn’t help ourselves, and could have gone to infinity). Many of these are replicable, so steal these ideas.
The Betty White Challenge
The Betty White Challenge seemed to arise pretty much spontaneously after the beloved animal advocate and Golden Girls star’s death, on the last day of 2021.
The challenge was simple, and easy to participate in—asking animal lovers to donate $5 to an animal shelter in Betty White’s name on January 17, what would have been her 100th birthday.
Animal shelters and other organizations quickly caught on—some promoting the fundraising event heavily, others minimally if at all. There were organizations that used their platform to encourage donations to food banks and civil rights organizations since, in 2022, Betty White’s birthday was concurrent with MLK Day.
The results were nothing short of astounding. A reported $12.7 million was raised for animal shelters on Facebook and Instagram alone, demonstrating a clear hunger and deep enthusiasm for people to be a part of something big, beautiful, impactful, and collective that supports the people and animals of their communities.
All the Dogs Are Named Taylor Swift
Speaking of participating in something big and collective—do you remember 15 minutes ago when the world went mad trying, and mostly failing, to get Taylor Swift tickets?
Where some saw heartbreak and bad blood, Seattle Humane saw puppertunity. They quickly renamed all the dogs in their care Taylor Swift, and put up the perfect Facebook post for disappointed Swifties hoping they’d tell these pooches you belong with me.
This funny, timely gambit turned into a nice media opportunity, too.
Only critique, and it’s a small one—given Taylor Swift’s well-documented love for felines, shouldn’t Seattle Humane have done this with the cats?
A Naughty Dog Goes Viral—and Finds His Way Back Home!
Damon could be a challenging dog. “He was a long-timer, wasn’t dog friendly, and had a very low-level bite that wasn’t his fault,” says Sydney Harlow, a foster care specialist at Cincinnati Animal CARE. “Plus he was so stressed at the shelter, we were really worried for him.”
The shelter regularly featured Damon, who’d come into the shelter as a stray back in November 2021, on Facebook and Instagram, and he was listed on their website.
But nothing happened. Then one day in June, Damon was in Sydney’s office alone while she went to a meeting. And she came back to this.
Sydney put up this post on her personal Facebook page, where it attracted quite a bit of attention. Another shelter that saw the post sent Damon a card and a care package of new toys. The Dodo picked up the story.
And then most amazingly of all, a few weeks after Sydney’s post went viral, someone walked into the shelter saying that he was Damon’s owner.
“When they saw each other for the first time in seven months, Damon sprinted into his arms,” Sydney says. “It was a glorious unification. Straight from the movies!”
Showing Compassion Above All
This dog was found tied to a fire hydrant, next to a bag of her belongings, and was brought to the Wisconsin Humane Society.
There were a lot of ways this dog’s story could have been told. Many of them would have been judgmental, they would have been accusatory—they might have gone viral, and raised a lot of money.
WHS chose to share the dog’s story with incredible compassion.
The story got picked up widely by the media (of course), and part of that narrative became about WHS’s compassionate response itself.
This shelter’s response modeled compassion, and sent the essential message to its community that they are there to support people and pets through hard times—not judge them.
This Dog Is Ready for Her Close-Up
Coco had no training as an actor, when she was adopted out of Fulton County Animal Services, a shelter in Georgia managed by LifeLine Animal Project.
But Coco was adopted into a showbiz family, and next thing everyone knew, this good dog was the breakout star of the movie Prey, which happens to be last summer’s biggest hit film on Hulu.
Fulton County Animal Services’s Facebook post about Coco’s rise to fame also went viral, showing us Coco’s picture when she first arrived at the shelter, and then a whole bunch more of her hamming it up in front of the camera.
The text takes readers through Coco’s journey from shelter dog to movie star, and ends with this:
“We are SO delighted that Coco found the life she has, and is now shining a light on the potential of shelter dogs and what they are capable of when given a chance.”
And if that isn’t the best message to have circulating on a viral post, we don’t know what is.
Steal This Idea: Heather Friedman, chief marketing officer for LifeLine Animal Project, tells us that LifeLine has created a specific email address for fosters and adopters to share follow-up stories and where are they nows.
Also, Heather tells us that Coco’s days in the spotlight aren’t over. “The last update we got about COCO she was on a plane flying first class to a set!”
A Black FURday Sale
On Black Friday, League City Animal Care in Texas threw open their doors from 8 pm to midnight for a Black FURday promotion.
Lynette Bodmer gave details on the American Pets Alive! Shelter and Rescue Support Facebook page, saying the shelter offered free adoptions and door-buster giveaways.
Lynette said in a comment that the shelter’s held other successful late night events, as well, including a glow party called Make Space in Your Heart for a Shelter Pet.
Box It Up
Storytelling isn’t just about how you tell your stories—it’s also about where you tell them. Bring in new audiences by speaking to them in new, and unexpected places… like on a pizza box.
This year, the Charleston Animal Society in South Carolina teamed up with a local Papa Johns outlet, to share fliers featuring long-stay dogs on every pizza box. And anyone who brings the box top to CAS when adopting an adult dog gets a free pizza party!
That Goes for Cats, Too
Cats also need a creative boost. That’s why we were so psyched to see the Animal Rescue League of Berks County put their working kitties up on LinkedIn.
We really don’t hate shelter pets going up on Tinder, either.
The Cutest Pet at the Shelter Right Now
Some shelters have really embraced and run away with the possibilities of storytelling on TikTok.
Here’s a video from the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association in West Virginia that couldn’t be simpler—or more effective.
@adoptcharleston This is the toughest question yet! #animalshelter #animalshelterlife #adopt #adoptme #adoptadog #adoptacat #shelterdog #sheltercat #wv #westvirginia #shelterlife #304 ♬ Cumbia Buena – Grupo La Cumbia
The Puppy Cart Is Coming Through
Ask anyone which shelters are really excelling on TikTok, and the Nebraska Humane Society will be one of the first names mentioned. And no wonder—their videos are creative, often funny, telling stories in novel and compelling ways.
@nehumanesociety Joey is blind and has a head tilt from heat stroke. Please keep your pets safe in this heat! #fyp #adopt #nebraska #animalshelter #sheltertok ♬ original sound – ice cream sandwich
And also they’ve turned their puppy cart—which has a practical purpose (ferrying unvaccinated puppies around), in addition to a viral one—into a favorite recurring character. Just take a look at this simple little video, that you will probably watch 15 times after you’ve seen it once.
@nehumanesociety the #puppycart is here with Diamond, Pearl, Garnet, and Topaz 💎 #adopt #fyp #nebraksa #animalshelter #puppies #nonprofit ♬ original sound – Nebraska Humane
Are there day-to-day goings-on at your shelter that you could share with the public, to give them insight into your workings, and get them excited about and engaged with your organization?
And here’s five more great marketing moments of 2022 we couldn’t bear to leave off the list:
- The Pongo Fund’s moving, compelling, compassionate story about Alice and her 12-year-old dog. This piece of storytelling breaks all kinds of rules—it’s long, there are no photos—and yet it, like so many of the Pongo Fund’s posts, could not be more powerful.
- We’ve seen a handful of shelters, like Pima Animal Care Center and Indianapolis Animal Care Services, start putting out preventing euthanasia lists in lieu of at risk of euthanasia lists. As Pima said in their introductory Facebook post, “The idea is to give the public a look at 20 of our dogs who we believe would fit into a wide range of families, dogs that we believe would be good in homes with other dogs, kids, and more. Getting these dogs out of the shelter would allow us to free up resources to focus on the more difficult-to-place pets: those with health and behavioral issues.”
- A 9-year-old dog, dropped at the vet for euthanasia and already under sedation for the procedure, given a remarkable second chance thanks to a vet making a call to Vintage Pet Rescue, and Vintage Pet Rescue being able to answer the call. VPR, a Rhode Island-based sanctuary and rescue group for elderly and sick dogs, is best known for its very very very funny, creative, and attention-getting posts and videos; they also excel at compassionate storytelling, about pets and people.
- Kitsap Humane Society’s sweet take on the “It’s Corn!” kid, with their “It’s Cats!” video. It’s a terrific example of a shelter hopping onto a meme-y moment in a way that absolutely works.
- The Portsmouth Humane Society hosted a foster speed dating event—prospective fosters gave the shelter info about their lifestyle and home, then were matched up with three potential matches; they were invited to the shelter to meet them and bring home the one they clicked with the best. Steal this idea, for sure—heck, steal all of them!
Like we said, we didn’t even scratch the surface of the incredible work that you all did in 2022. Thank you for all of it. Please get in touch any time at email@example.com, and we can’t wait to see what you bring in 2023.