Interview with Pierre Baryla, founder of Hello Jack
Why did you create Hello Jack?
I grew up with animals and when a dog gets old it is always seen as fatal. I began discussing with veterinarians ways we could improve our dogs’ health and realized that we could be much more proactive about the health of our animals. I also saw that what was on the market was very old-fashioned and not designed for dogs. Dogs can be difficult to feed; there are dogs that eat everything, but there are also a lot of difficult dogs — it’s a bit like children. The majority of dog food supplements are made as powder products and modeled on human supplements. I felt there was a gap in which we could encourage owners to proactively look after their dog’s health while doing something thoughtful for the dogs.
What challenges did you encounter in developing the concept?
Our products must meet three objectives: they must be effective, which requires the right ingredients in the right amounts, they must be designed for dogs, and they must be sustainable and responsible. We use insect protein instead of animal protein which has a lower carbon impact and doesn’t require intensive farming, unlike most meat-based animal food products.
We donate 1% of annual turnover to an animal protection organization. Being sustainable and responsible ruled out a lot of potential partners, because if the end product is to be sustainable, the principles must apply to everything in the chain beforehand. We developed detailed logistics requirements before we approached manufacturers; some were good but were too big for us, or were already too small for us given our growth ambitions. We looked at dozens of manufacturers before we found the right one close to our Berlin headquarters.
Which markets are you targeting?
The number of dogs in France and Europe is increasing, and millennials are the fastest growing cohort in terms of ownership. In the past, getting a dog was something people did when they retired, now it’s the opposite: it’s the first commitment people make as an adult. Millennials are also the top consumer cohort buying from online brands. Older people are too set in their ways when it comes to looking after their dogs. Millennials are the right target group because they already have a proactive attitude to their own health and want to apply the same principles when it comes to looking after their pets.
Our two key markets are Germany and France, and we are testing Spain and Italy with Amazon.
What key points do you need to communicate to potential customers?
There are several challenges. The first is that, despite everything, many people still ask why give food supplements to dogs? For many vets today, especially the older ones, everything is fine until it’s not. But it’s precisely by taking the right food supplements upstream, by being physically active, by paying attention to what we eat that we can avoid problems later. Many have not yet fully adopted the concept for their dogs. So it’s important to communicate to people that what you’re doing for yourself, you should also do for your dog.
What is the role of influencer marketing in your growth strategy?
When you create a brand, it is essential to create a community. Our products are scientific, but the subject is emotional, so it is very important to educate and entertain. We work organically on Instagram and TikTok but it is getting harder to go viral on these channels. Therefore, it’s important to find the right influencer partners to increase our reach and to give our brand credibility. We work mainly with micro and nano influencers; finding these influencers without the right tools is time consuming, and once you do find them, they are not all the same quality. As a startup, we are trying to control our costs as much as possible so sharing products or paying people who ultimately don’t perform is not ideal.
Kolsquare helps us to correctly identify influencers with the right keywords, and makes the research much easier. Once we have identified the influencer profiles, it’s also much easier to qualify them using Kolsquare’s credibility score, the engagement rate, and the region where their audience is based. It really helps simplify the task. For the campaign, we can write directly to influencers via Kolsquare which links to our Gmail. We can also follow and access all the campaign content that influencers post for us which is really handy, because we’re not always online on a Saturday afternoon to see if Stories have been posted about us! If you want to make influence marketing a key channel for acquisition or marketing in general, it’s important to have a tool like Kolsquare, which gives you control over your influencer marketing campaigns.
What is your approach to ambassadorships and payment of influencers?
We are at the beginning of our story so our ideal influencer is someone who agrees to test our products because they are interested in them. If after a first test, it works well and the influencer’s community has reacted well to Hello Jack, we might suggest they become an ambassador. In this case, we set up our compensation model, which ideally is based on commission because as a startup, we try to avoid fixed costs.