Four and a half years ago, Chloe Kardoggian was looking for a new home. She wasn’t what many would consider to be the most adoptable dog — at nine year old, she had heart problems, bug eyes, and only two teeth to her name. But Dorie Herman saw past all that.
Herman says she adopted Chloe from “a friend of a friend of a friend” after seeing a Facebook post announcing Chloe was up for adoption. She started an Instagram account for her new pet as a way to show Chloe’s old owners how she was doing.
Then Chloe got famous.
Chloe’s newfound celebrity came as a surprise to Herman, who told Mashable she never realized that dogs on the internet “were a thing” until she had her own insta-famous pooch.
Like many other pet influencers before her, Chloe’s account got extensive press coverage and served up “spon con.” She advertised Clorox, Swiffer, and Beggin’ Littles products, in addition to her own merch. Generating endorsement deals wasn’t the objective, Herman said, but the extra income helped pay for Chloe’s medical expenses.
But then in early July, Chloe passed away, leaving Herman and her Instagram following behind.
Now, in the wake of Chloe’s death, Herman is faced with one glaring question: what is to become of Chloe’s account?
When you lose your influencer, you lose your business
Loni Edwards, founder of The Dog Agency, the first management agency to focus solely on pet influencers, says that after a pet influencer passes, it’s unlikely their account will continue to make money.
“It is so hard because you’re losing your loved one but also it’s a huge monetary hit, and figuring out how to deal with that it’s a lot,” Edwards explains.
Depending on their following, pet influencers can make big money. Dogs with 20,000 followers can make $200 per post, dogs with 150,000 to 250,000 followers can make $3,000 a post, and dogs with one million followers can make up to $10,000 per post, .
But Edwards says it doesn’t matter how many followers you have if the star of your brand has passed away. “When that brand dies, you can’t just throw a new brand at [your followers],” she says.
However, there can be an exception to that rule. Accounts that focus on “families” rather than one single pet can continue to be profitable, even if one of the pets passes away.
“One of our clients, Wolfgang2242, he adopts senior pups all the time, and he sees a lot of turnover because they are senior pets,” Edwards said. “People follow for the family, so when one pet passes the account is still the same account. But when an account is about one specific pet and that pet is no longer here it’s a much different situation and it’s a lot harder to continue.”
But even for single animal accounts, the financial hit the owner might take after the pet’s passing doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the brand.
Pet influencers have strong communities, even postmortem
You may be wondering why you would even want to update your pet influencer’s Instagram if they’re long gone, and the account is no longer profitable? You might, like me, even find the concept a tad macabre.
But as multiple owners of now deceased insta-famous pets explained to me, the desire to remain within the community they created keeps them posting.
Anna Marie Avey, who runs Colonel Meow’s Instagram, says that since her cat’s passing four years ago, she still feels like she’s part of the community he created.
“I’m a cat person forever,” Avey said. “I’m still an animal lover. It doesn’t stop. You can’t just step out of the community. I’m in it forever.”
And it seems like Colonel Meow’s 305,000 followers are still along for the ride, too. Pictures of the Colonel still generate comments lamenting his death from adoring fans.
“Your presence is still felt, Colonel,” reads one comment.
Avey posts Colonel Meow’s old pictures sporadically. For the most part, though, she now directs the account’s attention to her new cat Papa Puffpants, her YouTube series Crazy Avey Land, and her Nine Lives podcast.
Toast, the dog behind toastmeetsworld, received an enormous amount of attention over the years for her eccentric outfits and tongue that flopped out the side of her mouth. She starred in a fashion campaign, had her own book, and was even a part of a dog wedding televised on Bravo.
After she passed away in December 2017, her owner Katie Sturino has found that the massive following Toast left behind (365,000 followers) provides her with a great platform to bring awareness to the inhumane nature of puppy mills.
“We do a lot of good with that account, it’s a really big audience and one of the biggest things that Toast has done is make an impact on changing people’s minds towards rescue,” Sturino explains. “So, I think it would be a totally wasted opportunity to stop posting completely.”
Sturino says she works closely with the Humane Society and supports their efforts to get rid of puppy mills, using Toast’s account to promote the “adopt don’t shop” philosophy.
Animal influencers don’t live forever, and that’s okay
Animal influencers will probably always be a welcome source of wholesomeness in a world that continues to disappoint on a daily basis — even if they are used as viral advertising tools.
Sadly, the longevity of an animal influencer’s career is limited by their very nature.
“Pets, unfortunately, don’t live as long as humans, so it’s a much shorter business time period,” Edwards says. “Some pets live to be 16, 18 years old. That’s a very nice life for a business. Knowing that it’s not something that’s going to go on your entire career, it’s still a sturdy business.”
Should your pet rise to fame, it’s inevitable that the bubble of success will eventually burst. Even so, that doesn’t mean that your pet can’t introduce you to a new community that holds you up or a new cause for you to champion. Both Avey and Sturino cherish the time they spent with their pets both on and off camera.
Though Herman doesn’t know what her next steps will be, she does plan on keeping the account. But even if no new endorsement deals come her way, she still credits the best things that have happened in her life to Chloe and treasures their short time together. And come September, she’ll be hosting the for , that provides “fospice” care for senior dogs. Herman hopes to raise $10,000 at the upcoming event and have it be matched.
Chloe would be pleased.