2013-08-28 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

Bacon-craving dogs go hog wild for Nestlé Purina Beggin’ Strips®. Yes, dogs love certain treats because they taste and smell delicious, but we all know dogs don’t have wallets. Purina understands that products must convey eye appeal to their owners, so the company has gone as far as burying jokes and clever references on the Beggin’ Strip packaging. Here are a few tantalizing samples:

“Ahhh, Love at First Sniff!” is on the front of the original Bacon Flavors while “Baconology 101” on the back paraphrases Sir Isaac Newton by declaring: “An Object in Motion Stays in Motion. Check out my tail!” The “Legend of Johnny Bacon seed” is on the Applewood Smoked Flavors bag: “… From planting bacon orchards to setting warm bacon pies on windowsills, this mythical figure has devoted his life to spreading the excitement of bacon to people and pets alike.” On the Bacon & Cheese Flavors package, “Hamlet” the Beggin’ spokes dog claims that he’ll learn to speak Pig Latin to get this taste.

“Hamlet” the Beggin’ Strips® trademark dog at the reviewing stand of the Beggin’ Pet Parade. “Hamlet” the Beggin’ Strips® trademark dog at the reviewing stand of the Beggin’ Pet Parade. My dogs have a love affair with Beggin’ Strips®. I first noticed the marketing humor on the grab tab of the Bacon & Beef Flavors. It reads: “Gotta Have More Cowbell,” and I couldn’t help but chuckle about the reference to the 2000 Saturday Night Live (SNL) skit with Christopher Walken, Chris Kattan, Jimmy Fallon and Will Ferrell. None of these comedians could keep a straight face while mocking the Blue Oyster Cult song “Don’t Fear the Reaper.” I laughed; thinking dogs don’t know or care about SNL, and then grabbed another package of the treat. So the Purina ploy worked!

According to Julie Catron of Nestle Purina Marketing Public Relations, “The Beggin’ Strips® brand made its debut in 1988. It has been bringing fun to owners and pets, while fueling their obsessions for bacon, for 25 years now!” Beggin’ Strips® have many admirers. In fact the treat’s Facebook page has close to one million followers. There is even a NoseCam app to help fans upload video commercials from a canine camera angle of their dogs enjoying Beggin’ (as the treat is affectionately nicknamed by its creators). The amateur ads are hysterical plus Facebook fans pay homage to bacon art, including a variation on Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. Or should we say “Porcine Chapel”?

Beggin’ Strips are shaped and colored appropriately and are made with real bacon (the 11th listed ingredient), preserved with sodium nitrite like the stuff we eat and enhanced with artificial ingredients. Remember that human shoppers need visual appeal and these strips look like those on our BLT. Each full-size treat is about 30 calories, while Beggin’ Littles designed for smaller breeds are about six to eight calories. Currently Purina has nine varieties of Beggin’ available including limited-time offerings like the Applewood Smoked plus the “Collision” flavors- Bacon & Ranch and Bacon & Peanut Butter. Some new limited-edition snacks will be hitting the shelves of select retailers in the fall. What’s next? Bacon & Penne a la Vodka?

“Hamlet” the Beggin’ trademark cartoon dog licking his chops, first appeared in 1994, the same year Beggin’ Strip commercials started airing on television. The current catch phrase is “There’s no time like Beggin’ time!” When I asked about the clever package references, Greg Stinson, Beggin’ brand manager, explained, “The brand has always been about a hilarious obsession with bacon – and this approach goes all the way back to our first TV commercials. But we’ve been putting more humor on our packaging since 2009.”

Stinson added, “The video of Tofu - www.youtube.com/watch?v=ITFJgSld8xk – is the ultimate expression of Beggin’ Time. Many of our consumers think Beggin’ Time is the best part of their day. You can see more expressions of this by visiting our Facebook page and looking at pictures consumers upload.”

Purina celebrates its popular product. At the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festivals in Iowa and Colorado, visitors will find outrageous games like “fling the Beggin’ in the frying pan” and a “bacontologist” quest for ancient bacon fossils. Purina still hosts their annual Beggin’ Pet Parade around Mardi Gras time. It is held every year in Soulard, a historic French neighborhood in St. Louis (Purina corporate headquarters), and might be the world’s largest pet parade, hosting over 5,000 pets and their owners. St. Louis’ Waterloo Courier also covered the Beggin’ Strips Stupid Dog Contest on July 4, 1999. The grand prize was a $5,000 supply of Beggin’ Strips® and a trip to see the Late Show with David Letterman in New York.

Beggin’ Time is an afterdinner ritual at my house… better than cognac to canines. The Afghans race up to grab their strip; do a perfunctory “sit” and then hightail away so no thief steals their bounty. My Cavalier mix does her business and then races into the house seizing her porky paycheck with a flourish.

And now to reveal an Afghan Hound trade secret. Actually, I already spilled the beans… oops, bacon, in the 12/20/12 Beacon “Pets.”

When the Birmingham Ballet staged a special performance of The Muttcracker last Christmas, 21 dogs graced the stage, including five rescued Afghans in the “Starlight Angels” scene. The cast used Pupperoni™ to get the dogs to cooperate during rehearsals, but at dress rehearsals and the real performance, they upped the ante to Beggin’ Strips®. For the angel scene, two Afghans needed to dash side by side as quickly as possible so their blonde tresses would move in an ethereal way. A young ballerina lured them with a Beggin’ rubber-banded to her wand, whereas one of the Afghans waltzed with Drosselmeyer because the dancer had a Beggin’ taped to his shoulder.

It’s funny because we repeat this routine each evening when my Afghans pirouette for their Beggin’ Strip and slap me with their hairy mitts if I don’t hand it over fast enough. Purina, this year the ballerinas need the NoseCam app. You have the makings of a great commercial staged at Birmingham Ballet.

For Adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: Featuring two seniors- “Gumby” #13-512, is toothless but outgoing, whereas “Tiny” #13-493, a Smooth Fox Terrier, is more mournful about her homeless predicament. Dogs: “Bingo” – Cairn mix; “Bixby”- Maltese mix; “Drake” who’s been at the shelter for three years. Kittens: buff-#3-377 & longhaired orange and white #3-282.

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