How Mars Petcare used Facebook tools to create a hotline during COVID-19

The pet brand wanted to provide pet owners with reliable information during the pandemic, so it created a hotline with social media tools.

How Mars Petcare created a social media hotline

It’s tough to break through with audiences during this time of crisis.

Information overload is weighing down screen-weary eyes, and even brands that have a powerful and important message to deliver risk being drowned out. However, brands can use their unique position as trusted authorities on topics adjacent to their business to engage customers who are desperate for information during these uncertain times.

An impetus to help educate consumers and fight misinformation led Mars Petcare to create a hotline, what it calls the “Pet Health Pal,” for pet owners with important information about pet care during the COVID-19 crisis. To create the service, the brand used Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

“With the current pandemic, we saw the anxiety of pet owners learning to navigate the new normal of social distancing and shelter-in-place, along with a wave of misinformation about pet care and ownership,” says Jane Wakely, chief marketing officer at Mars Petcare.

“We developed the Pet Health Pal to provide pet owners with an easy way of getting factual information, quell their anxiety and help them be responsible pet owners. While social distancing and sheltering in place, people are spending even more time on their phones, and the Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp platforms made perfect sense to bring this tool to life.”

Early returns have been encouraging.

“Though it’s still in its very early days, we’re seeing that people are successfully requesting and receiving answers to their questions,” she says, “with an average of three to four interactions per user. An encouraging number of users are also requesting to stay informed on updates and are requesting additional pet health information, which is a great vote of confidence.”

Learning about the audience

Savvy communicators know that a campaign can be an important time to learn about their audience, as much as it is an opportunity to push key messages. For Mars Petcare, the lessons have been about what customers are prioritizing during the pandemic.

“It’s been very interesting to see what questions the Pet Health Pal users have had and what content they’ve gravitated towards,” says Wakely. “While people are concerned about the pandemic, the most popular topics have actually been information about keeping pets exercised, happy and healthy in a time that can be as stressful for them as it is for us. It’s clear that wellness is about more than just not being sick, for pets as well as their owners. “

The campaign has also been an opportunity to learn about chatbot technology and how to best use it to engage users. A top takeaway for Mars Petcare was the importance of being able to offer accurate information to concerned customers.

“The most important thing for us was to bring pet owners the correct information, so that they and their pets can live their happiest, healthiest lives together,” says Wakely, pointing out that Mars worked with a research partner, the Waltham Petcare Science Institute.

“For other brands looking to use chatbots or messaging apps, we recommend ensuring the information they’re putting out there is accurate and backed by facts and science to truly be a helpful resource during this difficult time,” Wakely says.

Getting the word out

How did Mars Petcare let consumers know about the new channel offering pet health information? Like most campaigns in the modern era, every channel available was tapped.

“We announced the Pet Health Pal with a media relations effort to lean on folks like you and other credible sources to help spread the word in both the US and UK markets,” says Wakely. “We also shared social content on the Mars Petcare and Waltham Petcare Science Institute channels, which were promoted with paid support to help extend the reach.”

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