How BarkBox Took an Obscure Holiday and Turned It into a Killer Social Media Campaign

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January 21st is National Squirrel Appreciation Day, and there are really only 2 types of people who know this:

  1. Squirrel enthusiasts
  2. BarkBox followers

Squirrel enthusiasts love squirrels. BarkBox, on the other hand has taken this obscure holiday and turned it into a social media campaign that’s impossible not to talk about.

In digital marketing, it’s easy for things to get banal. We get used to seeing the same headline templates, the inevitable “10% off of your initial order” email, and the “follow us to win our product giveaway.”

It’s the same stuff with a different brand on it. 

But BarkBox has a habit of keeping things fresh. Their strategy goes against the grain, saying no to the same-old same-old and yes to the “this might work, or it might totally flop and be one of the most talked about digital marketing campaign failures of 2020.”

And we, for one, commend their bravery. 

The company sells monthly subscription boxes for dog toys and treats, and they saw an opportunity and ran with it. 

National Squirrel Day.

Because of BarkBox, over 2 million people just learned that today is a day for appreciating squirrels. And because of the hilarity of the campaign, more and more people know about BarkBox. After all, that’s the most important goal for social media.

While we wish they had livestreamed the meeting where this campaign was greenlighted, we’ll take an outside look at what they’re doing and how we are guessing it’s affecting them.

BarkBox Is on A Social Media Rampage

Well, actually we should say the squirrels are. BarkBox’s social media campaign is stemmed from the uprising of squirrels who have taken over their social media accounts.

Here’s what their Instagram account looks like right now:

BarkBox's Instagram page taken over by squirrels

And this is their current Twitter profile:

BarkBox's Twitter account taken over by squirrels

The premise of their social campaign is that squirrels are seeking revenge and are looking to get their nuts back, and they’re holding BarkBox hostage until they do so. 

BarkBox's tweet asking for nuts

To help BarkBox, their followers are posting nut emojis 🥜 in the comments of the squirrels’ posts (there’s a sentence we never thought we’d say).

Instagram comments from BarkBox followers with the peanut emoji

Why Is BarkBox Running This Campaign?

Simple: to get people talking and increase social engagement. Do you think we would have published this article if BarkBox was running a “Get 10% off your first BarkBox by signing up with your email here,” campaign?

No. The answer to that is no.

We’re not even batting an eye, let alone putting effort into writing an article to summarize that campaign.

But a squirrel take-over campaign?

We just put a rush delivery on this post. 

Not only is the digital marketing world watching BarkBox, but so are their customers. A measurement of their campaign’s success is the comments pouring into their social media profiles—regardless of if they have nuts attached.

Followers are asking BarkBox “ WTF is going on over here today?? 😂.”

And an immeasurable, but certainly viable, measurement is the number of people who have sent or said the above message to a friend who also subscribes to BarkBox. 

Just ask us how we know.

Slack messages between the DM team about the BarkBox campaign

The starting point of all digital marketing is getting people to talk about your product. We can assume these campaigns work well for increasing BarkBox awareness because this isn’t the first time that BarkBox has run a campaign like this.

They ran the same squirrel campaign last year for this holiday, but the most viral campaign was much more recent.

Two months ago, they created a “Big Honkin’ Pig in a Blanket” dog toy that went viral for its… aesthetic. Notice the Facebook comment in the left-hand corner of this photo and make sure to notice BarkBox’s response.

BarkBox's Big Honkin' Pigs in a Blanket Toy

Clearly BarkBox knows how to create content that drives awareness: the first stage in the Customer Value Journey.

If you need more help with your digital marketing efforts, you can become a DM Insider for FREE to get instant access to our Customer Avatar Worksheet, so you know how your customers would react to an out-of-the-ordinary campaign, like BarkBox’s.

How Is BarkBox Going to Capitalize Off of This Campaign?

There are 3 main ways that BarkBox is (probably) going to capitalize off of this campaign:

  1. Increasing brand awareness
  2. Driving website traffic that can be retargeted
  3. Conversions

Increasing Brand Awareness

This type of campaign gets people talking and acting, which all drive more awareness to the BarkBox product. For example, here’s user-generated content from a follower of BarkBox, reposted by BarkBox:

An Instagram story from a BarkBox follower of a golden retriever on a walk with text "I'm on the hunt for squirrels. They're trying to take over the world!"

By posting this story, all of their followers now know about BarkBox. The math is simple here: the more people that know about your business (generally speaking) the more money your business can make. 

User-generated content like this turns your customers into your salespeople. Instead of you paying Instagram to show a story to a target audience of dog enthusiasts, this user just did it for them for free.

BarkBox is building brand awareness by creating an out-of-the-norm campaign that is going to get people talking and posting.

That’s Step One of the Customer Value Journey done right 👏.

Driving Website Traffic That Can Be Retargeted

You know when you visit a website and all of a sudden you see the ads for their product everywhere? That’s retargeting, and BarkBox has their tracking pixel ready and waiting for this campaign.

There’s a high chance that the people who just became aware of BarkBox are visiting their website to see what is going on with this squirrel takeover. Using a tracking pixel, BarkBox can then advertise to these people on social platforms like Google or Facebook.

And since they’re extra savvy, they created specific ad campaigns for this group of website visitors that are themed around this squirrel takeover. This way they (again) break the mold of a regular digital marketing campaign and continue the conversation about this campaign.

In fact, some of the DM team has already been retargeted. Did we call it? Or did we call it?

An Instagram DM between 2 DM team members with a BarkBox ad saying "Who will you capture" featuring a squirrel toy


Remember, the more people that know about your business the better your business will do. BarkBox just increased the number of people who are aware of their business, which means that there’s a pretty big chance that they’re going to see conversions from this campaign.

Whether those conversions are happening right now on their website or are going to happen through retargeting, it’s inevitable that BarkBox lands some customers from this campaign.

And at the end of the day, that’s the entire point of digital marketing. While marketers are certainly focused on building brand awareness, their goal is to move people through the 8 steps of the Customer Value Journey so they become customers and raving fans of the business.

The Customer Value Journey Worksheet

Without question, we know that this article taught you something new—that January 21st is National Squirrel Day. But we also hope you learned a bit about the behind-the-scenes marketing strategies being used by BarkBox.

If you need more help with your digital marketing efforts, you can become a DM Insider for FREE to get instant access to our Customer Avatar Worksheet, so you know how your customers would react to an out-of-the-ordinary campaign, like BarkBox’s.

The post How BarkBox Took an Obscure Holiday and Turned It into a Killer Social Media Campaign appeared first on DigitalMarketer.

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