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The Dog-Eat-Dog World of DTC Pet Food with Jinx CEO, Terri Rockovich

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If you’ve heard of Casper, the mattress-in-a-box brand, you unknowingly have heard of Terri Rockovich. Terri was one of the early employees at Casper and helped the company launch into the stratosphere. Today, she’s trying to do the same thing with her new company, Jinx, a DTC dog food brand committed to helping our furry friends live their best lives. So maybe it should actually be DTD? Direct to dog?

Anyway, as Terri told me, it’s hard to make magic happen twice, especially when you’re launching a brand in the middle of one of the biggest market shakeups in history. On this episode of Up Next in Commerce, Terri told me all about how Jinx had to pivot when its retail strategy fell to pieces when stores shut their doors in 2020, and she described how directing all of the company’s focus to digital fulfillment and creative partnerships with brands like Petco, Rover and Target landed Jinx in front of a national audience faster than they imagined. Plus, Terri and I got into how disruptive brands can build a moat against their major CPG competitors. And be sure to take note of when and where you might be seeing (and maybe smelling) some doggie billboards coming soon! Enjoy this episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • A Moat With Many Alligators: Young disruptive brands often come to market to take on larger, established CPG companies. As a brand trying to grab market share, you might think you’d want to push out others just like you. Instead, it might be more effective for similar disruptive brands to all go after the one or two market players in order to open up even more opportunities. The disruptive brands, by definition, will be doing something different than the CPG companies, and that insulates them from being overtaken so easily, especially if they band together.
  • Ditching Customization: Creating a custom experience seems to be all the rage, but by creating a product that meets the needs of many, scaling becomes much easier. With a widely accessible product, you can much more easily sell, produce and ship product with speed.
  • Pick Your Path: If you want to compete online or in retail, you need to be sure that you show up in a way that allows you to stand out. Whether that’s through price, uniqueness of product, the consumers you’re targeting or in your marketing and packaging, there has to be something that makes people stop, look and give your brand a chance.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

 

“We really believe that having an amazing product is table stakes for playing in any of these arenas with so many options. Casper had a really amazing product, but it was copied and pasted so quickly by other bed in a box brands. So we really made sure to build a moat around our brand and product positioning in order to avoid that because we’re also in a category that’s dominated by big CPG with a lot more money to spend on marketing and product innovation than us and frankly, just a lot of options that create a lot of noise for the consumer.”

“Our vision was to create a superior product that was shelf stable and competitive to what exists in bags today with multiple access points at a more attainable price line. So it sounds like a mouthful, but what we did was really broke down the experience from shopping and selection through lugging that bag home and then also, pouring it into likely another container and then actually the feeding experience as well. We tried to solve and optimize for all of those specific moments in time.”

“There’s no real customization component to our diet. We have really formulated something that is appropriate for modern dogs of all breeds ages and sizes. So with that, and because there’s no tailoring to really specific conditions, the diet is really accessible to the majority of the market and in that sense, just allows for wider distribution and quicker distribution.”

“We’re continuing to really stand up these retail partnerships for wider distribution, but it really is an atypical growth strategy for a pet food brand since the logical process is to grow through pet specialty first on a regional level then on a national level, and then you start to make it into some of these bigger mass formats. But we just navigated as best we could and postured ourselves as opportunistic and really activated the partnerships that made the most sense given the circumstances and overall climate.”

“It’s really important to make sure that your product is retail ready from the start from both a packaging and shelf stability perspective. So without having to figure out any of the painful logistics around installing refrigeration units or scaling complicated supply chains, we really tried to solve for all of that up front through launch so when partners came and wanted to expand their categories and they were looking for premium brands to add to their shelves, we were ready to go.”

“I think that there is definitely some hunger from larger mass brands to partner with smaller, cooler brands to bring some freshness to various categories. I think Target, specifically, has done it with a couple of direct-to-consumer brands and really found a lot of success with it. So we were trying to use that same formula and really catch some of the momentum from brands that have come before us outside of the pet food category to think about some of the cool things that we could do to promote the retail partnership. Doing that through marketing and influencership and advocacy was really what we pitched as being the supporting mechanism to make the partnership successful.”

“As a new brand that doesn’t have a lot of awareness or hasn’t driven customer favor ability or advocacy quite yet, having an inline placement is really only beneficial if you’re able to compete at a price point that’s compelling among the brands that you’re sitting alongside. If it’s not, then winning share at the shelf is going to be a lot harder. So price is the first thing that I really considered the biggest lever, and if you can’t compete there, then you have to fight for space to deliver a really compelling message or proposition.”

Bio

Terri Rockovich is the Co-Founder & CEO at Jinx. She is a seasoned executive with 12+ years of combined agency and client-side experience at fast-moving companies. She previously worked as an early employee at Casper, rising to the role of VP, Acquisition & Retention Marketing. She also served as the Chief Digital Officer for Outdoor Voices.


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Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hello, and welcome back to Up Next in Commerce. I’m your host, Stephanie Postles, CEO at mission.org. Today on the show, we have Terri Rockovich who currently serves as the co-founder and CEO of Jake’s. Terri, welcome to the show.

Terri:

Thank you so much for having me.

Stephanie:

I’m excited to have you on and talk all things pets today. But first, I want to talk about mattresses and your background at Casper, because I think that’s a really fun story and awesome how you have co-founders from there too, so I was hoping you can touch on your background there before we dive into Jinx.

Terri:

Absolutely. So Casper was a pretty incredible experience and we borrowed so many strategies from that growth playbook to apply to our own business, but we were all pre-launch employees. So we met and had the opportunity to ride this rocket ship, really, and not only grow our respective teams, but really work together collaboratively and cross-functionally. So my co-founders and I were first co-workers and then we became friends and now we’re business partners. So that evolution is full of different dynamics, but I think some of the most important are just foundations of trust and communication. So that’s one of the most incredible experiences or value adds that I took from Casper, specifically, but that brand was just so well-timed, I think, to be disruptive in a category that was very ripe for disruption.

Terri:

At Jinx, we created a brand with a product offering that was superior from a digestibility and taste perspective, and we really believe that having an amazing product is table stakes for playing in any of these arenas with so many options. Casper had a really amazing product, but it was copied and pasted so quickly by other bed in a box brands. So we really made sure to build a moat around our brand and product positioning in order to avoid that because we’re also in a category that’s dominated by big CPG with a lot more money to spend on marketing and product innovation than us and frankly, just a lot of options that create a lot of noise for the consumer. So there’s a ton of parallels, and I think that mattresses are certainly much different than dog food, but the synthesis of the idea to disrupt something to make it better is definitely shared.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that. So tell me a bit more about Jinx. First, whose idea was it and what was the driving force behind making better dog food?

Terri:

So it’s like as a dog parent, I think we were all craving brands that provide a higher quality pantry-friendly, all-natural food that your dog actually enjoys eating and truly overhances his or her wellness by improving their health. So our vision was to create a superior product that was shelf stable and competitive to what exists in bags today with multiple access points at a more attainable price line. So it sounds like a mouthful, but what we did was really broke down the experience from shopping and selection through lugging that bag home and then also, pouring it into likely another container and then actually the feeding experience as well.

Terri:

We tried to solve and optimize for all of those specific moments in time. So we were pretty determined to solve for the hassle of buying dog food in the store since it’s so heavy and getting it back to your home alongside other items is a task in itself, optimizing for replenishment needs by creating a flexible, automated subscription that shows up at your door when you need it, and then designing a diet that’s just generally more appropriate for modern dogs, since the bulk of premium posture diets are packed with just an abundance of protein that moderately active dogs simply don’t need.

Terri:

If I may just unpack that a little bit more, when we were doing our initial research, we uncovered a pretty alarming stat that 56% of dogs in the U.S. are clinically obese, and there’s over 90 million domesticated dogs in the U.S., which leaves us with a lot of plump pups. So when a dog is receiving an over-delivery of any one item like protein or fat, it typically stores as fat and not paired with limited exercise presents a major health issue. So we really were focused on a nutrition philosophy that is much more appropriate for the majority of dogs that pet owners can relate to because they have them and then also, again, trying to design a convenient digital shopping experience and delivery experience for dog parents resulted in where we are today.

Stephanie:

Yep. I love that. So since you guys have launched, have you seen others popping up around you, because I feel like in thinking about building the moat, you could say back when Casper was starting, they were building it by having a better product and convenience and all that. Then, when you guys were starting, you have way better ingredients and ease to go have it right to my doorstep. Do you see people popping up now where they’re like, “Oh, I see what Jinx is doing. Okay, we can just start incorporating those same ingredients as well, or the same marketing message.” What does the industry look like right now?

Terri:

The short answer is yes, but there’s not so many that it’s not manageable or completely threatening. I think at the end of the day, we’re all trying to launch independent, privately-held brands to compete against big CPG. So I actually think if we rally together, we can create some real momentum and drive significance in terms of collectively assuming some of the market share that’s open within the category. But I would say that the subscription commerce landscape as it relates to dog food is dominated by fresh, so we’re often compared to fresh formats. But we’re a dry format, we’re shelf stable. We provide clean label products across a core diet or a based diet, and then also some adjacent categories, so treats, dental, chews and toppers.

Terri:

Toppers are meal enhancement tools, but by creating an offering, that’s available first through D2C and then through retail partnerships, we are differentiated in the fact that we have something that can very easily scale into retail, something that you can sign up for in a replenishment program and then opt into loyalty programming that really rewards you for continued purchase behavior. Then also, there’s no real customization component to our diet. We have really formulated something that is appropriate for modern dogs of all breeds ages and sizes. So with that, and because there’s no tailoring to really specific conditions, the diet is really accessible to the majority of the market and in that sense, just allows for wider distribution and quicker distribution.

Stephanie:

Yep. Got it. So I want to talk a bit about your retail partnerships, because I heard maybe in the early days you had a partnership with a specialty pet food store and then during the pandemic, it went out of business. Then you said you basically had to scrap your entire go-to-market playbook and do something completely different. But then, now I know you guys are in Petco, so I want to hear about that waterfall experience, because it sounds intense being like, “Here’s what we’re doing and now we’re not doing that. Now we’re going to go try this again.” Tell me about those pivots.

Terri:

Absolutely. So if I take a step back, the timeline is pretty crazy in the sense that we really worked on the formation stages of the business. In 2019, we were prepped and ready to soft launch at the top of 2020. We launched the website very quietly in nature. It was working and people were getting their food and they were happy with the delivery experience and the feeding experience. Then, we were really getting ready to step on a larger stage and announce our launch when the pandemic really was at its height and the political arena was heating up. So there wasn’t really a moment that felt appropriate to launch this announcement of a new dog food brand coming into the category through a D2C model.

Terri:

So we had assembled and lined up our first retail partnership, and because it was regional specialty and because they were forced to shut their doors indefinitely, we really just disassembled that contract. We were so far along that our food was in their fulfillment centers, their staff was trained. We had committed to co-marketing efforts and initiatives and we really had to just scrap it and pivot. So the immediate solve was to look through digital partnership activation and do things with brands that were like-minded, had shared values and just generally were chasing the same customer base that we were. Then, as we thought about wholesale beyond that, we really became a right partner for brands that were basically scaling their assortment through eCommerce because so much purchase activity had shifted online.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terri:

With that, we got the opportunity to partner with Petco. We launched with Petco in what would have been the fall of 2020, and then that partnership in itself unlocked several others. So we were the exclusive food partner for rover.com and they’ve, obviously, got a huge base of pet parents. Then, we went into bloomingdales.com. It opened the doors to target.com and then, eventually, Target stores. So we’re continuing to really stand up these retail partnerships for wider distribution, but it really is an atypical growth strategy for a pet food brand since the logical process is to grow through pet specialty first on a regional level then on a national level, and then you start to make it into some of these bigger mass formats. But we just navigated as best we could and postured ourselves as opportunistic and really activated the partnerships that made the most sense given the circumstances and overall climate.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that super smart. I just had a guest on the show, he was saying, a lot of people are looking at these new D2C companies that are staying strictly D2C and they don’t want to mess with retail and they’re being coveted as the highest growth companies out there. But if you actually look at the skews within Target, within Petco, there’s brands like you all who maybe have much more explosive growth and are able to tap into the retail locations and the customers in a lot more spaces than just one direct line to a consumer. How did you guys structure those deals, because I’m sure a lot of people are listening like, “Well, I want to be in Petco and Target and all those places?”

Terri:

So I think it’s really important to make sure that your product is retail ready from the start from both a packaging and shelf stability perspective. So without having to figure out any of the painful logistics around installing refrigeration units or scaling complicated supply chains, we really tried to solve for all of that up front through launch so when partners came and wanted to expand their categories and they were looking for premium brands to add to their shelves, we were ready to go.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terri:

I think Casper unlocked growth through retail a few years after launching, and we knew it would become a growth asset much earlier in our timeline since the bulk of purchasing still happens in stores. So we’ve really just designed to accommodate for that and specifically, as it relates to the negotiations. Wholesale has a pretty tight margin and that’s built into vendor agreements. I think what we fought really hard for was marketing support and also, real estate in store. So instead of just being in line in an aisle, we really wanted to pop or be given some real estate where we could really share our brand story or our product value proposition because we are new and without having heard of us, how do you win at the shelf without some type of dialogue or voiceover or marketing collateral? So that’s what we really fought for through vendor agreements and negotiations, and then the margin piece is pretty standard depending on the product offering and category.

Stephanie:

Yep. So as a new brand, how did you fight for that, though? I’m just imagining an up-and-comer being like, “I want to be at the end of the aisle and I want to make sure you help promote us.” I love that confidence and I think everyone should do that, but how do you actually make sure these retail partners even want to give you that and want to partner with you in that way? Because I could see a lot of people just getting in and being like, “Whoop. All right, I’m here. I’m happy. That’s all I wanted,” and not even thinking about, “Okay, what should I ask for now that I’m in?” So how did you structure that relationship in a way where they were willing to promote you?

Terri:

Well, I think the reason we even had the opportunity to host those conversations was because we were an interesting brand based on how we look, how we sound, how we feel and really because of the customer that we are targeting, which is this affluent, millennial dog parent. So I think that there is definitely some hunger from larger mass brands to partner with smaller, cooler brands to bring some freshness to various categories. I think Target, specifically, has done it with a couple of direct-to-consumer brands and really found a lot of success with it. So we were trying to use that same formula and really catch some of the momentum from brands that have come before us outside of the pet food category to think about some of the cool things that we could do to promote the retail partnership. Doing that through marketing and influencership and advocacy was really what we pitched as being the supporting mechanism to make the partnership successful.

Stephanie:

Got it. What were some of the brands that you were looking at and maybe taking some from their playbook of like, “Oh, I really liked this in-person experience that they did or this marketing campaign I saw?” Was there anyone that you were watching and maybe playing after?

Terri:

So Casper had expanded its first retail partnerships through Target, and so we had full insider visibility into that playbook. Because my team was responsible for actually standing up and executing the geo-targeted media efforts, we knew what was successful and what worked and what was not so successful. So we really started with focusing our dollars on store activation across the 400+ stores that we’ve launched in. But I would just generally say Harry’s was another brand that had built a really significant direct-to-consumer business and then popped through store formats, IRL store formats, with a really big presence. I think another razor brand was Flamingo. We saw LOLA, the tampon brand, launch and then most recently, Ro of Roman launched in Walmart. They had a pretty incredible launch plan because they went from zero to 3000 or 4,000 doors.

Stephanie:

Wow.

Terri:

So you see these digitally native brands across industries or across categories doing different things, but really having these, I think, significant marquee launch moments and really, I think, unlocking scale within weeks is just not achievable online because of the pressure that exists within the digital landscape and some of these auctions that we’re all fishing in.

Stephanie:

Yep. What are some examples where brands are maybe having some missteps for the IRL type of experiences where you’re like, “Oh, we know what did work and we know it didn’t work when Casper was going into Target?” What do you see today where you walk around and you’re like, “Oh, that’s actually not the best way to do that,” or, “I’ve seen data that shows otherwise?” What are some things to maybe avoid?

Terri:

So I think as a new brand that doesn’t have a lot of awareness or hasn’t driven customer favor ability or advocacy quite yet, having an inline placement is really only beneficial if you’re able to compete at a price point that’s compelling among the brands that you’re sitting alongside. If it’s not, then winning share at the shelf is going to be a lot harder. So price is the first thing that I really considered the biggest lever, and if you can’t compete there, then you have to fight for space to deliver a really compelling message or proposition. I think with Casper, specifically, their price point was a lot higher for the products that they had in-store, and so when you see that price on an end cap or inline comparatively to the other points of relativity that sit alongside it, again, you have to have some pretty stellar packaging, or messaging, or a salesman with boots on ground to really tell you why it’s worth that extra 30, 40, $50.

Terri:

So we felt that really arriving at a price point that wouldn’t defer a potential customer was the first thing that we needed to get right. So we really value engineered everything from packaging through delivery and freight and distribution to make sure that we were able to show up competitively. Then from a marketing perspective, there’s a lot of trade-marketing that can happen with retail partners, and that’s a little different than what you would typically do as an activation point through digital marketing or traditional marketing. So that’s the playbook that we really started to assemble to make sure that we had high visibility in-store or in-app in some cases, or on our partners’ eCommerce sites to start building that frequency and overall validation to be able to win and create velocity within these store formats.

Stephanie:

Yep. I love it. What were some of the maybe packaging or messaging that you tested? So I could see for dog food, especially, I remember there being this whole wave of, “Okay, you need grain-free, gluten-free. You need all this stuff.” Then, all of a sudden reports come out and it’s like, “Oh-oh. Dogs are getting sick by this new dog food,” and there was a bunch of these brands that were pretty big brands who maybe tried to do an offshoot of a healthier dog food and they’re like, “Don’t give your dogs this. Apparently, they do need gluten or something.” It seems like there’s a lot of mixed messaging out there, so it seems like it could be difficult to maybe have that on a package if, especially me as a consumer, I’m like, “Well, I don’t know what they should have because I just tried to buy something healthy and apparently it’s not healthy.” What did you guys lean on to actually resonate with your customers?

Terri:

So it’s so funny you say that because I think that product marketing is so critical within this category and really arriving at propositions that are relevant and compelling to the customer who’s buying the product for someone else technically, is really like, it requires a lot of experimentation in terms of AB testing, different messages across different customer cohorts. But if you look at the premium category, specifically, the bulk of mass position brands are really designing diets for dogs that we can’t necessarily identify with because they’re assuming we have these Wolf-like creatures or pure-bred show dogs that are highly active. So just from an aesthetics perspective, we wanted to put something out there that immediately sparked joy and doing that through happy colors and doing that through dogs that look more like the dogs that we actually have was really the first thing that we tried to achieve through the packaging design exercise.

Terri:

I would say all brands are similar in the sense that they promote the same things, like either grain-free or grain-friendly diets or high- protein diets or limited-ingredient diets. So we did a lot of testing to figure out which higher propositions resonated most, and then also just to visually make sure that you were able to delineate between proteins and super foods and grain-free or grain-friendly so that the selection at the shelf was not a complicated or confusing one. But I think a lot of it has to do with just simplifying your messaging and really being clear about what’s important, premium proteins, high- quality ingredients, functional foods, and for us, we use a patented probiotic. But being really clear, I think, about those product propositions on the front of pack and any packs that are placed on their sides is probably the most important thing in terms of messaging.

Stephanie:

Yep. Was there any surprises when you guys were testing that where you’re like, “Oh, I’m surprised people actually are leaning towards that value proposition that maybe we weren’t even considering?”

Terri:

I would say, actually, what you had mentioned, the grain-free versus grain-friendly debate-

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terri:

… was something where there was some reports released about DCM and it being harmful to dogs and actually causing death. Because of that, grain-free diets had gotten a really bad reputation pretty quickly, and they were over 50% of the market as it relates to dry format food. So that was something that we took an opportunity to editorialize and explain through our website and our digital storefront. Then furthermore, I would just say that a lot of pet parents aren’t familiar with how to understand an ingredient panel or a guaranteed analysis. Those are the nutrition labels that are the human food equivalents in the dog food world and so understanding those is pretty important as well. Once you give some visibility in terms of what’s appropriate, in terms of inclusion levels, people can pretty quickly understand if they’ve got a premium food or not-so-premium food. So I would say that those two assets were things that we made sure were really easy to understand and really clear in terms of messaging.

Stephanie:

Yep. That’s great. I always looked at those labels it’s like, “90% protein.” I’m like, “Great. I guess 90 is close to 100, maybe that’s great. Oh, is that too much? I don’t know.” Then, even thinking about misconceptions around what should an animal be eating, there’s been times when I’ve seen, oh, bison dog food and in my head I’m like, “Well, if my dog couldn’t even attack a bison, why should it be eating something that big?” I don’t know. Maybe it should be eating the salmon or something it could actually get in the wild, even though my is not in the wild, but it seems like things are just a lot of people never really have thought about and you just bought the food I never really thought too in-depth until now when people are actually starting to think like, “Well, should they even be having that, and is that good for them?”

Terri:

Totally. Yeah. I think that there’s some really interesting novel proteins. I think at the end of the day, again, simple is better. So when you think about the food pyramid for humans, and then you take it a step further and think about it for dogs, it’s like whole foods and functional food should really make up the majority of their diet. Then, as it relates to proteins or the number one ingredient, which is the bulk of the diet, it’s like the five first ingredients listed in a panel really make up the majority of that food, but protein should be lean and easy to process in nature. So when you think about some of these novel proteins, they’re not as opposed to something that is easier on the digestive system like a lean fish or a lean poultry item.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Cool. So when I was looking at how we can order Jinx, I saw it everywhere. Like you said, you’re in Petco. I can get from your website. I can, I think, get it from Postmates. how do you think about the strategy of being everywhere? At least when I was looking around, it seemed like I could get you in a lot of places.

Terri:

Our primary business is done through our website, so it’s thinkjinx.com and the retail partners that are currently active are petco.com, bloomingdales.com, rover.com, target.com and then we’re also in Target stores. So we’re in a lot of places. We’re going to be in a lot more in the next seven months, and so we’ve got a really big retail partnership launching in Q1 of 2022. Then, we’re continuing to figure out the online distribution strategy outside of thinkjinx.com. But really, part of the original thesis was to create a better brand that was available through many access points. We know that pet parents come in all shapes and sizes and some prefer to buy in-store and some prefer to have it show up at their door every four weeks.

Terri:

So we’re trying to accommodate the bulk of those use cases, but retail partnerships is not only a really scalable strategy for a brand that is shelf stable, but one that also gets us, I think, frankly like a more diversified customer mix. Right now, as you can imagine, our subscription business online through D2C is really focused on this millennial dog parent cohort. So when we start to show up in different store formats, specifically, physical store formats, I think that profile is going to start to change, and then it really opens us up from an addressable market perspective.

Stephanie:

Got it. What’s keeping you guys from moving onto Amazon? Is it because it’s harder to sell your value props there and teach your new customers on why you’re maybe better than a Rachel Ray Nutrish who says limited ingredients, but like, “Are they? I don’t know.” Are there other factors on why you don’t really want to be selling on Amazon?

Terri:

There are other factors. I think the most prominent one is probably you have to pay to play. It’s not just the margin structure based on if you’re a 1P or 1P retailer. You typically, as a new brand, without much awareness or recall, you have to participate in their monetization platform and really buy impressions to make sure that you’re showing up for relevant searches outside of anything that would be considered branded that you would organically show up for in terms of search results. So because there’s a real cost component to being able to create real volume and velocity, specifically, within the Amazon marketplace, we’ve avoided it so far.

Stephanie:

Yep. Got it. So the other thing I wanted to touch on was your partnerships, because you guys have really unique ones around, I think, you partnered with Barry’s and you did a Valentine’s Day one. I want to hear a bit about who is coming up with, “What’s a good partnership and how’s it going to perform and also be fun for our customers?”

Terri:

So, we just have a long list of brands that we adore and I would say what’s really important in terms of figuring out what might make for a great partnership is just having brand synergy and definitely, shared values and then, some type of overlap or connective tissue in terms of the customers that we’re targeting or the customers that we have. The partnership with Barry’s was a really fun one because I think for those that work out, we were all trying to figure out what that looked like in 2020 and how to create space to do yoga or any type of weight training or boxing or whatever you’re into, right? So I know in my case, if I tried to do anything and I shut the door, my dogs would bark.

Terri:

If I let them in, they would be fully disruptive in terms of my workout program, even having 30 minutes to myself to stretch and do some yoga or some Pilates. So when we were talking to Barry’s, we had originally started at some type of sponsored email, and then we had started to unpack what something virtual could look like in the form of experience if you were to figure out how to incorporate your dog into your workout without going hiking or running outside. So we designed a workout program. We opened it up to two classes, one for press, and one for customers where you’re doing a series of workout moves in a small space in your home. And you can also use your dog as an asset.

Stephanie:

How? Give me an example. What would I be doing with my dog?

Terri:

So I have a 45-pound dog, and then I have an 85-pound dog. So my 45- pound dog I was able to pick up and do some squats with and some lunges with. My 85-pound dog sat there and jealously watched us, but that was the one that I was able to participate in. People with smaller dogs were also using their dogs as weights.

Stephanie:

Mm-mm (negative).

Terri:

Then, I think the majority of people just have their dogs really sitting on their mat or sitting under their feet and becoming an obstruction for them actually doing a successful workout. But I think the point was that we were trying to get creative and solve for some of the pain points that we were all forced to endure as we tried to figure out how to make our lives normal in 2020. So that one was probably one of the more fun things that we thought of bringing into the wellness category through this human and dog bond component.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I can see a lot of fun engagement and pictures coming from that. Were you able to maybe capitalize on that excitement even after the event and keep the conversation going and keep that maybe mini community that was just built continuing to talk, or what does that look like after the fact?

Terri:

Yeah. The live events, I think, were the highlight of the partnership, but we certainly participated in other touchpoints. So there was some sponsored emails, and then, of course, we promoted that content across social to both of our customer bases. So because I would say almost half of their population are pet parents, it was actually a really successful partnership in initiating new customer acquisition because there were so many relevant people that I think just had this experience that truly resonated with them.

Stephanie:

Yep. I love it. So you’re very big on retail. You’re very big on IRL experiences. You’re still, of course, doing all things digital. What maybe new things are you guys trying out or testing that you don’t know if it’ll work or not, but you’re trying it out for the next year or two?

Terri:

So one thing that we just did on a small scale that we’re planning on implementing on a bigger scale is a doggie billboards. so these are quite literally a doggie level advertising assets that we posted in dog parks or highly-frequented dog areas.

Stephanie:

Wow. That’s great.

Terri:

So truly, it’s a billboard that you could pick up, but if you photograph it properly, it looks like a marquee billboard that you would see on Sunset Boulevard in LA. So we posted those. We actually had them scented so they would attract dogs and then, we filmed it from afar just to see what the interaction looked like, but it was viral. It was a hit. I think people who were there to experience them in person or people that saw the content online really got a kick of this activation that we did under this direct-to-dog marketing umbrella. So that and other just clever marketing tactics are really what we’re thinking about funding as we close out the year and then also, march into 2022 with larger marketing budgets and then also, some marketing strategies that are really designed to support some new retail partners.

Stephanie:

Oh, I love that. Yeah. I was actually thinking earlier, when you were talking about the workout stuff with Barry’s. I’m like, “Oh, what if there’s a little screen off to the side that distracted your dog and just had maybe a cat running around and kept him away from me so my dog wouldn’t just sit there and lick my arm the entire time while I’m working out,” but billboards, even more genius. I love that. All right. Well, let’s move over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce commerce cloud. This is where I ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready, Terri?

Terri:

I’m ready. Let’s do it.

Stephanie:

Okay. First, have you ever tasted any of your Jinx recipes?

Terri:

I have. We just launched some of that content on TikToK. We actually did taste testing of all of our treats. So there’s three soft jerky treats and two plant-based biscuits.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terri:

Myself and two of my colleagues did a taste test and we’re launching all of that content on our TikTok.

Stephanie:

That’s great. Well, can you give us intel on what’s your favorite? Did it actually taste good?

Terri:

Yeah. So the biscuits were dry, but my favorite was the peanut butter and blueberry. It truly tasted like a dry peanut butter cracker. Then the jerky is, while they smell really delicious, they almost smell like human beef jerky, those were a little too intense for me.

Stephanie:

That’s great. I can’t wait to see that content. What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever received?

Terri:

I would say that unpacking the difference between force versus power is something that I was encouraged to explore as I was just navigating this upwards trajectory in my career and building big teams and figuring how to work with complicated personalities on the leadership level.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terri:

So managing by influence versus force or power is something that I was really challenged to consider and figure out how to work that into my style so that you can get people doing what you think is right in terms of activation or production of strategy, but then also because they also believe in it as well. I think, frankly, debate is good for an organization, but it can sometimes lead to indecision. So you really just have to take some risks and chances and I think make decisions that really enable some type of learning that you can then iterate on, even if it doesn’t give you the successful outcome that you expect.

Stephanie:

Yep. I love that. That’s a good one. What’s one of the biggest risks you’ve taken in business?

Terri:

I would say launching my own business.

Stephanie:

Yeah.

Terri:

I was always really attracted to entrepreneurial environments and startup culture, and I had worked for three brands back-to-back and then did some advising and some consulting for early stage companies. I knew that I wanted to take my swing. I just didn’t necessarily have the idea yet. So when I reconnected with my former Casper colleagues and they presented what they were thinking and it immediately resonated, but I just knew that the only thing stopping us from being successful was the fear that comes with failure.

Stephanie:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Terri:

So I had spoke to a lot of people and gotten a lot of solicited and unsolicited advice and really had become encouraged to just have that confidence to take a swing and work as hard as you could with really good intention and just hope that the successful outcome would eventually come.

Stephanie:

Yep. That’s great. We’re glad you did, really good. What’s one thing you’re secretly curious about?

Terri:

Oh, this is a good one, secretly curious. I’m secretly curious about how people with children maintain their entrepreneurial position, because I’ve got two dogs and a cat and a partner and I can’t even imagine how I would think about time management and just really how to fuel my own energy and motivation by having a kid running around that I’m responsible for. I think that I’ve never had such a deep appreciation as I have in working with my teammates who have families and they show up and they work late and they’re so overly committed to what we’re building. I have no idea how they do it because I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water without children.

Stephanie:

Yep. I love that. I don’t think we know how we’re doing it either, so if anyone has an answer, I don’t know how I’m doing that. I know Hillary always asks me, “How are you alive right now, Stephanie? You didn’t sleep last night at all.” So yep, I agree on that. All right, Terri. Well, thanks so much for joining us. It was really fun to hear about what you guys are up to. Where can we find out more about you and Jinx?

Terri:

So I am @Rockovich on Twitter. I am @terrirockovich on Instagram. Then, Jinx is available to all at thinkjinx.com.

Stephanie:

Amazing. Thanks so much.

Terri:

Yeah. It was so nice meeting you. Thank you.

Episode 146