Believe in your product or service — If you truly believe in your product or service, then your passion will do the selling. My audience can tell that I’m passionate about my Hugs & Kisses™ products when I share with them the outstanding ingredients, results achieved, and that I feed them to my own dogs, Molly and Willy.
As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Warren Eckstein.
Warren Eckstein’s first language is Animal. This means that he has the unique ability to understand and communicate with animals. Warren is the author of 11 animal behavior books, and he has personally trained over 40,000 pets and their two-legged owners to live in harmony with one another. In his four decades as a pet psychologist, trainer, and behaviorist, Warren has employed his Hugs & Kisses™ positive approach. He developed this method while stationed in Southeast Asia and working in Europe by observing and studying animal behavior. Upon returning home to Long Island, New York, and in search of clients, the young newlywed took a creative step by running an ad in the PennySaver which read, “Will teach your dog Yiddish for $15”. By fulfilling a need as a pet therapist, Warren single-handedly created an industry that didn’t yet exist. And so, it began.
The phone calls came flooding in, and within a short time, Warren was training supermodel Cheryl Tiegs’ dogs, which was soon followed by training David Letterman’s dogs, Bob and Stan. For 15 years he was the Pet and Animal Expert on Live! With Regis & Kathie Lee, followed by his regular appearances on NBC’s The Today Show as Contributing Pet & Animal Editor. Private celebrity clients throughout the years have included Al Pacino, Lily Tomlin, Liberace, Kathie Lee Gifford, Cheryl Tiegs, David Letterman, Rodney Dangerfield, and he became known as the official trainer to the NY Mob, among many other interesting clients. In his 40 years hosting The Pet Show on radio, Warren has helped over 100,000 pet owners with their pet’s psychological, training, and behavioral questions.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I grew up on Long Island, New York, but I’m originally from Manhattan. When I was a young boy, my family moved us out of the city. So, on weekends and holidays our relatives visited us often — too often, in fact. It felt like our home was always seemed filled with guests who never wanted to leave. That left me wishing for peace and quiet. I was a pretty shy kid, and in order to get away from all the people I found solace next to a beautiful creek just behind our home. Living beside the creek were muskrats, snapping turtles, rats, geese, and an assortment of other wild animals. It was fantastic, I loved it there! The creek and the animals became the place where I would feel most “at home”. There, I would talk to the animals — and they actually listened! In fact, we communicated! I felt understood! This is when I discovered that my first language is Animal, and my calling was working with animals.
Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Several years into my career as a Pet Behaviorist and Trainer, my wife and I opened a boarding and training facility. We called it “Pet Resorts International”. I thought it was a catchy name, that is, until I received a letter from Merv Griffin’s attorneys threatening to sue me. I guess Merv thought it was a catchy name, too! And he especially didn’t want to share “his” name with a pet business so close to Atlantic City, where his company was based. Thankfully, I never heard from the attorneys again and I ended up keeping the name.
The lesson I learned from this fiasco was, “Why can’t we all get along?”
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
November 2021 marks my 40th year on radio. We have an audience of over 5 million listeners per week tuning in every Saturday to my back-to-back shows on KRLA and Radio America. Having this enormous platform to help pets and their guardians communicate with one another has been the most joyful and gratifying experience.
My approach on The Pet Show is unique because I’m able to grasp pet guardian’s concerns from the pet’s point of view. It’s what separates me from the pack (no pun intended). Even over the air waves I’m able to know exactly what the animal wants, needs, and is trying to communicate. In my 40 years on radio, I’ve helped over 100,000 pets and their guardians to communicate better with one another.
It’s my “hugs and kisses” approach to training pets that, I believe, sets me apart from other animal trainers and behaviorists. I like to think that I have a much kinder approach, because I’m coming from the pet’s perspective. For instance, it isn’t uncommon for me to dispense techniques like “get down on all fours with your pet”. Try it sometime! Your pet will thank you!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
In 1995, I founded the Hugs & Kisses Animal Fund, a not-for-profit organization in memory of my late wife, Fay. Its mission is to fund hundreds of small animal organizations across the US. A privately funded California 501 © (3) non-profit Trust, the Hugs & Kisses Animal Fund aims to be the outsourced fundraising arm for small animal rescues when other financial resources are unavailable. HKAF is an all-volunteer organization where every penny raised goes to the animals. In 2020, during the pandemic and our year of greatest giving, we reached our goal of granting funds to groups in all 50 states & Puerto Rico. Covid has wiped out the ability of the small animal groups to raise funds via their normal activities: car washes, white elephant sales, bingo nights and more. The Hugs & Kisses Animal Fund doubled our funding to keep many of these small unheard-of groups afloat, who do the majority of animal rescuing in the U.S.
Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
In my case, back in the 70’s, in order to spread the word as an Animal Trainer I took out an implausible ad in the PennySaver that read, “Will teach your dog Yiddish for $15.” I needed an ad to spread the word, create myself as “the brand” — and also a loyal following. That one small ad led me to training David Letterman’s dogs and to regularly appearing on his show. It also, lead me to regularly appearing as Contributing Pet Editor on The Today Show, Pet Authority on Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, and to personally training over 40,000 pets, many of whom were celebrities’ dogs. That one ad also led me to fulfilling the need as a Pet Behaviorist — an industry that hadn’t yet been created. I am the brand, and the reason listeners are tuning into my radio shows. As the brand, my name appears on my vitamin-mineral supplements for dogs and cats called, Warren Eckstein’s Hugs & Kisses™ Four-In-One. I have a saying in my commercials which is, “When your name is on the label, your reputation is on the line with every jar.” This is truth!
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Building a brand takes time, energy, and money. Brand-building absolutely doesn’t happen overnight, most especially with the amount of information thrown at all of us every minute of every day. In order for your brand to stand out, you have to do the work and be patient, and then do the work again.
Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
40 years ago, when I first started talking to people about their pets on The Today Show, Live with Regis & Kathie Lee, as the Creature Keeper on The New Micky Mouse Club, or my national & Los Angeles radio show, I heard over and over again how people’s cats and dogs needed relief from dry skin, itching, hairballs and excessive shedding. Solving those problems inspired me in 1993 to create my own supplements called, what else? Hugs & Kisses™!
Here are the strategies I did to build my own trusted and believable brand and what suggest doing:
- Create a product or service that fulfills a need — I saw a need and created a superior product that delivers exceptional results.
- Believe in your product or service — If you truly believe in your product or service, then your passion will do the selling. My audience can tell that I’m passionate about my Hugs & Kisses™ products when I share with them the outstanding ingredients, results achieved, and that I feed them to my own dogs, Molly and Willy.
- Confirm credibility — Sharing user comments, reviews, and testimonials will build credibility with potential buyers, or in my case, with my listening audience. On my radio shows, I emphasize that generations of dogs and cats have thrived on my Hugs & Kisses™ vitamin-mineral supplements.
- Offer compelling reasons for your customers to buy — If your product or service will change lives, create positive experiences, solve problems, and is affordable, then customers will never second guess themselves and find a reason to decline buying. When it comes to Hugs & Kisses™, our vitamins keep pet’s immune systems in tip-top shape; make dogs and cats feeling great; solve that annoying shedding problem; and they’re affordable, too!
- Every customer matters most — In an age of online purchasing and a decline in social interaction, doing whatever you can to offer customer support will pay off immensely. Whether it’s an 800 number to reach customer support, or emailing a customer survey to your buyers, we all want to know that our business is important to the success of the company we’re supporting. At The Pet Show, our listeners are our “customers” when they call in for questions about their pets, and when they support our advertisers. When my listeners connect with me on the radio, they undoubtedly connect with my advice as a Pet Trainer and Behaviorist, and also my sponsors who have been advertising with me for years. It’s a circle that keeps the wheels turning.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
Subaru. It’s the first automobile company to make a long-standing commitment to help shelter dogs — especially those with special needs like older, deaf, blind, and “different” dogs — get adopted. Subaru and its retailers help support over 600 local shelters across the country by donating $100 for every pet adopted during the month of October. They also celebrate National #MakeADogsDay in October when Subaru encourages all dog lovers to do something extra special for their dogs. This day, combined with Subaru Loves Pets Month efforts, has helped countless pets find loving homes.
It’s possible to replicate Subaru’s promotions. If your passion is pets, for instance, donating a portion of the sale for every product or service purchased to a pet charity can add up quickly for the charity to cover supplies and overhead.
What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?
I feel it’s important to hire people who can put fresh eyes on your product or service. Professionals with renewed perspectives can reenergize your marketing strategy with a fresh point of view. Team members who are the “right fit” for your company can create possibilities you didn’t know existed. It’s vital to surround yourself with individuals who share your vision for your company. They should inspire you and be inspired by you and your business goals. Try not to run your business as a solopreneur, because we always need someone who can carry some of the load, and someone who we can bounce ideas off of. Besides, doing all the work yourself can get very lonely.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
Over the years I have witnessed many positive changes in the way animals in our culture are treated. We, as a society, have made some strides, but so much more can be done to protect the animals. Let us stop the excessive testing on animals. Let’s make puppy mills around the country illegal. Let’s create an actual NO KILL SOCIETY. Stop using animals for entertainment, such as in circuses and amusement parks. Let us improve the conditions at underfunded shelters and sanctuaries. It all starts with education and exposure, especially in our schools and community groups. Imagine a world where animals are respected. These are the changes I would love to see happen.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb — that’s where the fruit is.”
This short but powerful quote has encouraged me on so many occasions to pursue my dreams, no matter the challenges. Sometimes the dreams are out there, and sometimes you have to reach a little harder or longer, but if the passion is within you, you will get there. Just don’t be afraid to go out on limb.
We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Paul McCartney. From his vegetarian diet; to rolling out Meatless Monday; to the many campaigns he supports, Sir Paul is a tireless animal activist since the 1970s with a huge platform, and I greatly admire him for using his influence for that. From promoting farm animal rights; to composing songs about animals and animal rights; Paul shines an international spotlight on the way we should treat our fellow creatures.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.