Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Mathematics and Symbolism of Misery Puppies


At the AKC, it's not just the dogs that look alike. Here you have three ladies all dressed in red to catch the judge's eye. Judging up the leash is common at all dog shows, and the winner in the AKC is often led around by a professional handler. For more on dog show clothes for handlers (for women only, alas) see >> http://www.dog-showclothes.com/ )


As noted in the two previous posts, the American Kennel Club has decided to enter into a formal contract with Petland to encourage the registration of Hunte Corporation "puppy mill" dogs as AKC animals. As Ron Menaker, Chairman of the AKC's Board of Directors notes in the minutes of the September AKC Board meeting (link to PDF file), the AKC has been registering dubious dogs "for the past 122 years" and "we have collected millions of dollars" as a result. He goes on to further observe that "registering puppies that come from these puppy brokers or pet shops" "is not a new phenomenon."

Why does the AKC now want to snuggle up next to the puppy mill industry? The Board of the AKC is rather blunt about the problem: though the AKC made a profit of $5.7 million last year, that is not enough. A core problem, Jim Stevens Chief Financial Officer of the AKC told the board is that events "lost approximately ten million dollars in 2005. This year there have been 8,500 events to date, which was up 12 and a half percent from 2005. The total number of entries in events so far this year has been 1.8 million, which is two and a half percent above last year. Based on how the current year is shaping up, we would anticipate that this year's loss from events will be comparable to last year."

Events. That would be dog shows for those of you who are wondering. They are losing money. And so the AKC has to endorse puppy mill puppys (as they always have) in order to make up for the economic loss caused by dog show rosette chasers.

And yes, the AKC IS endorsing Petland. As AKC board member Steve Gladstone notes, "yes ... we are endorsing them with our papers. We are telling the world these people meet AKC standards."

OK, so let's see if we can do a little math here.

It costs $15 to register a puppy with the AKC. So, in order to recoup the money lost from shows, the AKC needs to register 666,666 misery puppies a year. To see what those puppies look like in a Petland stores, see this video clip taken by two idiot teenagers and loaded up to YouTube.



"In order to recoup the money lost from shows, the AKC needs to register 666,666 misery puppies a year."
To put it another way, the AKC is losing about $1,175 dollars per event (dog show), which means about 78 misery puppies need to be registered to underwrite every AKC event.

How many rosettes are awarded at an AKC event? I have no idea, and the number shifts, but I think it's safe to say that every breed and performance win requires at least one puppy mill misery puppy to be registered.

And of course, more misery puppies will have to be sold because some will not get registered. A lot of folks coming to Petland will see the "AKC registerable" sign and banners and think this is proof they are getting a quality product for their kid or themselves. But, at the cash register, these same folks may do a little math of their own. After all, the dog cost $600, and then there was the crate ($40), the leash and collar ($20), the dog tag ($7), dog food ($15), and the registration ($15). What here looks like something we can do without right at this moment? So, bottom line, there will be a lot more misery puppies sold than registered.

A core problem for the AKC is that sales of their "product" (registrations) is slipping.

What to do?

Well, I have spent a great deal of time in meeting with professional marketing geniuses, and I will tell you what they will all recommend: Develop an icon for your brand.

And I have the perfect icon in mind. Instead of awarding rosettes to the winners, perhaps the AKC could, in honor of their new Petland contract, award every winner a plush toy "Misery Puppy?" The toy would not have to be spattered in blood. It is enough that the plush toy is poorly made, and has an odd color and perhaps an odd odor. I imagine any child-labor sweat shop that makes plush toys has a whole bin of defective cast offs that can be bought for a song. In fact, "Misery Puppies" may become quite popular and, if the AKC markets them right, they can be the new symbol of the American Kennel Club.

To go with AKC tradition, the Kennel Club can even invent a history or "provenance" for their defective plush toys, just as they have with so many dog breeds.

"These plush toy are not defective," they can sniff. "They are worn and ragged because they have been loved so much. They are like the Velveteen Rabbit."

Perfect!

Now I know some people will think this is over the top, but really it isn't. After all, the causal relationship between the economics of dog shows and the economics of the Petland deal and the sale of pet store puppies has now been made clear by the minutes of the September AKC board meeting.

Now we know exactly how many Misery Puppies it takes to get an AKC rosette. And yet, the core problem remains -- the AKC is without an iconic brand.

Now they have one. Let the registration begin!

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