They command international attention, have amassed tons of followers on social media, and collaborate with the world’s largest brands.
However, you still have to pick up their poop.
Animal influencers are undeniably on the rise. These pampered pets (and their owners/handlers/entourages) enjoy a level of social media fame normally reserved for well, human celebrities, and bring in real revenue by their high-profile partnerships with brands like Mercedes-Benz, Zappos, Purina, and even Google.
In other words, those adorable fluffballs earn more money on a single Instagram post than you, a human, will probably ever make on a single Instagram post. Let that sink in for a minute.
According to Create&Cultivate, social media influencers (animal or otherwise) could expect to earn around $3,000 per sponsorship deal after they hit between 150,000 and 250,000 followers. Many of the pets on this list have over a million followers.
So why the sudden demand for four-legged brand ambassadors?
Loni Edwards said people had that innate perception that pets generate warm, happy, fuzzy feelings — owner of Chloe (as in Instagram-famous @chloetheminifrenchie) — to Digiday. “Brands are starting to reach out since they make people genuinely happy, and they want their adverts to make people happy.”
It turns out people actually like cute animals — even if these animals are promoting issues. “You do not notice that you’re getting advertised to, or you do not care because you are seeing a super cute dog,” Katie Sturino (owner of another famous pooch, @toastmeetsworld) explained to Fortune.
In addition to sponsorship deals, many of those pets generate income from their own branded products like books, calendars, apps, clothes, mugs … you name it, and someone has plopped a pretty animal on it and sold it on the internet.
Is this whole thing a bit weird? Maybe. Did I follow all of those animal influencers on Instagram? Absolutely I did.
Read on to see how 11 of those furry animal influencers are building their brands and developing their empires.
11 Famous Animal Influencers
1) Harlow, Indiana, and Reese: @harlowandsage
Number of Instagram followers: 1.4m
This adorably photogenic trio consists of a very tolerant Weimaraner (Harlow) and two rambunctious Miniature Dachshunds (Indiana and Reese). In what’s possibly the cutest rise-to-fame story ever, the three pups became an international internet sensation by snuggling.
Brittni Vega – their owner – has made sure the cuddly canines use their fame for good. They recently partnered with pet food brand Purina to benefit the Canine Health Foundation, and have worked with Love Your Mellon, a cancer charity.
Harlow, Indiana, and Reese have also worked with Clorox to boost awareness about Parvovirus, a potentially fatal virus for dogs, and Petfinder, to assist shelter dogs to find homes. Other promotional clients embrace Petco, Figo Pet Insurance, and the Subaru Puppy Bowl.
Vega even spun the dogs’ popularity into a second Instagram account, @harlowandfriends, which exclusively options images of dogs available for adoption.
2) Loki: @loki_the_wolfdog
Number of Instagram followers: 1.3m
When Mercedes-Benz needed a rugged, handsome new spokesmodel for the 2017 GLS SUV, they did not reach out to any old movie star — they got Loki, a Husky/Arctic Wolf/Malamute combine, to be the face of their newest campaign (Move over, John Hamm).
“Loki and his story aligned particularly well with our SUV portfolio,” mentioned Mark Aikman, general manager of marketing services for Mercedes-Benz USA, to Digiday. “Our inquiry has shown that a big number of SUV owners have pets.”
Known as “Loki the Wolfdog” on Instagram, this gentle giant spends his days traversing the great outdoor with owner Kelly Lund, who donates the revenue generated from Loki’s merchandise and sponsorships to 2 animal charities: Canine Support Teams and Eagle Trail Mountain Wolf Sanctuary.
Loki has become a magnet for brands seeking to promote an outdoorsy lifestyle, including REI (he is a social media sponsor for their annual #OptOutside campaign), GoPro, Rigid Industries LED Lighting, and Google Images.
3) Nala: @nala_cat
Number of Instagram followers: 3.1m
Probably, the cross-eyed feline is closer to matching Kim Kardashian’s 88.3m Instagram follower count than you.
Meet a six-year-old Siamese and Tabby with baby blue eyes and short, chubby legs – Nala. Since she first popped up on Instagram back in 2012, this remarkably photogenic cat has been racking up followers and brand sponsorships left and right.
She’s been featured on media outlets such as Daily Mail and BuzzFeed and has sponsorships with major brands such as Friskies, Persil ProClean, and Zappos. She even recently opened a giveaway for Google’s new Pixel smartphone, which the brand gave her as a present.
It does not hurt that Nala’s owner, Los Angeles resident Varisiri Methachittiphan (known by her nickname “Pookie”) has an MBA and strong business acumen. She even begins an empire for her other cat, Mr. White, who has a good 1.3m Instagram followers of his own under the handle @white_coffee_cat_.
4) Pumpkin: @pumpkintheraccoon
Number of Instagram followers: 1m
How does it feel to be less prevalent than a raccoon? Because unless you have a million Instagram followers, you are losing the social media rat race to a plump raccoon named Pumpkin.
Pumpkin is a domesticated raccoon living a charmed life in the Bahamas with her owner, Laura Young, and canine siblings Toffee and Oreo. Her favorite activities are eating avocados, lounging on the couch, and petting dogs.
While her Instagram account is noticeably devoid of sponsored posts for now (besides some posts promoting animal rescue charity BAARK), Pumpkin is a personal branding machine. She has a book — Pumpkin: The Raccoon Who Thought She Was a Dog — and has been featured on CBS, ABC, EW, and TV specials for BCC and Animal Planet.
And yes, Pumpkin is eating popcorn out of a Pumpkin the Raccoon branded bag in one of the below images.
5) Chloe: @chloetheminifrenchie
Number of Instagram followers: 147k
A burgeoning fashion icon, Chloe has been featured in major publications like Martha Stewart and Vogue. She has her own line of fancy dog scarves (a collaboration with luxury human scarf brand Donni Charm) and Pawtty Bags, which her website describes as “essentially little dog purses to hold poop bags.”
For her second birthday, Chloe’s owner/manager, Loni Edwards, went all out, throwing a charity bash to raise money for the Humane Society of NY. The party was sponsored by BarkBox, Kind Bars, and Bloomingdale’s, among many others.
Edwards, a lawyer turned entrepreneur, began Chloe’s Instagram initially as a method to share images of the ridiculously cute pup with her family and friends. In just a few short years, managing Chloe’s social media presence and endorsements has evolved into her full-time job.
“It became more than me and my friends following her — there were strangers appreciating her cuteness,” Edwards said to Racked about Chloe’s rapid rise to stardom.