Kristin Waters and Carole Feeny launched Project Blue Collar in October 2012. “We were a bootstrap, social enterprise startup and had no marketing budget to speak of,” says Waters. “We were forced to be creative and seek free methods of getting the word out, so social media was the default.”
Today, Project Blue Collar is a global movement that celebrates rescue dogs and unites the people who care about them. Project Blue Collar was launched when Waters and Feeny realized there was no way to identify rescue dogs or to hear their stories. That’s when the two thought about creating something that would identify that the dogs were adopted, and they came up with blue collars.
In the years since Waters and Feeny launched Project Blue Collar, the most growth has come from expanding the brand and products. According to waters, the Project Blue Collar product line has gone from one SKU in 2012 to more than 50.
To help grow their movement, Project Blue Collar leveraged the power of Facebook. In fact, Waters says it’s been the key business driver and primary way they’ve engaged with followers. “It’s been so much fun to hear from people all over the world who support our message,” says Waters. “Between Facebook and Instagram, we’ve shipped products to six continents over the past 3 years—all through our social media presence and active engagement with our followers.”
Waters says that being in touch with supporters allows her and Feeny to interact with them in a meaningful way. “We make them feel like they are joining something bigger than themselves, and that their voice matters,” she says. “Our message of supporting dog adoption is something that pictures can easily depict, especially when the dog is wearing a blue collar. So when they submit photos of their blue collared dogs, we spotlight them and the pictures become a primary source of content on our social media channels.”
Supporters are encouraged to share the stories of their rescue dogs to be broadcast on Facebook and Twitter. “We’ve been super disciplined about maintaining our brand filter and our engagement with our followers has been a key reason we’re able to consistently represent Project Blue Collar in the most optimal way,” says Waters.
Aside from social media engagement, Waters and Feeny have been doing a lot of business development to help grow the Project Blue collar movement. They’ve forged partnerships with philanthropic companies, their rescue partners network and leaders in social media including high-profile accounts on Facebook and Instagram.
“Our message resonates with them and more doors have opened for us,” says Waters. “These partnerships have helped us expand our product offering, build brand awareness, explore wholesale opportunities and boosted our overall marketing efforts.”
Any time Project Blue Collar is involved in a campaign, they’ve noticed a growth for the brand. These include the photo contest from summer 2014 called Lessons From My Rescue Dog, #DogGotToy—a toy drive in partnerships with Jolly Pets during the holiday season last year and CrossFit, where Project Blue Collar was an exhibitor at the 2014 Central East Regional competition.
“In all of these cases, we attracted new supporters because our message was amplified faster, in a grassroots, word-of-mouth way, than any prescribed, empirical media buy could achieve,” says Waters.
Lastly, Waters and Feeny used feedback from early supporters and this past May they launched an initiative called Pittie2020. “It’s a 5-year social media photo campaign featuring pictures of pit bulls wearing glasses, all in an effort to ‘clear the vision’ of pit bulls and get people to see them for the goofy, loving dogs that they are,” explains Waters. “Pittie2020 is an ‘open brand’ concept whereby we share management of it with selected pit bull advocates and influencers as a way to broaden reach.”
As for the future, Waters says that the next step for Project Blue Collar is to become a retail brand. “We want Project Blue Collar to be available in both boutique and chain pet supply stores, as well as at animal shelters with a strong retail presence,” explains Waters. “We also want to expand partnerships and our product line, and will be actively looking into licensing opportunities.”
To learn more about Project Blue Collar, visit their website. You can also follow along on Facebook and Instagram. Waters says that any of their products are available at the store. For any additional questions or for those who would like to partner with Project Blue Collar in any way, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.