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AKC January Chairman’s Report

— A New Year, An Evolving AKC —

New York, NY – With a new year come new perspectives. Fresh resolutions allow us to look to the future, tackle our goals head on and make change a reality. It is a time to learn from the past and to embrace new starts and new ideas.

In my past reports, I’ve made no secret to the fact that AKC registrations are declining, yet on the mend. From 2011 to 2012, dog registrations experienced a 10 percent drop. That number improved in 2013, with only a three percent decrease from the previous year – one of the lowest rates of registration decline in a decade. We are encouraged by the improvement of our numbers in the past year, due in large part to business decisions and programs set in motion to revive registrations. In addition, 2013 litter registrations had one of the lowest rates of decline in a decade, also, with a five percent decrease from 2012. The positive disparity between litter registration and dog registration is predominantly due to our successful Breeder of Merit program. We are continuing our efforts to increase participation in Breeder of Merit and we are developing new breeder programs and education seminars. Additional consumer offerings are in the works to make registration more appealing to the general dog owner.

AKC will continue to seek opportunities to further promote registrations and maintain their recovery.

However, as we face a new year, it is time to acknowledge that registrations are unlikely to remain AKC’s primary, long-term revenue source or method for engagement with dog owners. Nor should they. Just as with New Year’s resolutions, it is time to gaze ahead and embrace transformation at our organization. There is no doubt that dog owners are still in love with predictable purebreds. What is clear is that they are less interested in the papers to prove it. It is also clear that our decision to open the AKC to mixed breed dogs through AKC Canine Partners is connecting with new people every day. While AKC’s Facebook page currently holds more than 1.1 million fans with 74% engagement (an astronomically higher rate than the standard four percent achieved by other brands), 2013 dog registrations totaled only 479,404.

Our traditional forms of face-to-face engagement are as strong as ever. However, it is crucial to look towards the future and acknowledge that they won’t always be enough. Today’s consumers are increasingly connecting with brands, products and organizations in the digital and mobile spaces, not in the show ring. AKC Board and Staff have recognized the organization must embrace a progressive business model to meet an evolving marketplace. AKC must be as relevant to dog lovers today as it was to the group of sporting gentlemen in search of uniform dog show rules 130 years ago.

In response, we are implementing a customer centric approach, making the “AKC experience” as easy as possible through significant investments in digital and by building relationships with all dog owners. The growth and success of our social media and PR efforts is strong ground from which to build. AKC’s fans across social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ grew by more than 60 percent in 2013. Proactive, positive public relations efforts garnered more than 22 billion impressions in 2013, a significant increase from the previous year.

In tandem with a strong social following, we are placing focus on successfully introducing and growing owned digital products. WOOFipedia, a digital/mobile platform soft-launched in November 2012, is AKC’s solution for the younger generation to both learn about breeds and responsible dog ownership, as well as share engaging moments and activities between them and their dog.

We are investing in customer relationship management and the development of a strong database of dog lovers across the country. Partnering with major tech companies like Marketo, whose team guides us in the implementation of improved customer management, allows AKC to put business intelligence at the center of business decisions.

We are focused on aggressively marketing and promoting AKC’s physical products that immediately appeal to every dog owner. Items like Reggie Box, a compact offering of toys and treats delivered to your doorstep, and Good Dog Helpline, a service that provides professional training insights on the other end of the telephone, are gateways for AKC to bring dog loving consumers into our world.

For every purebred owner who doesn’t understand why registration matters, we must find and seize an opportunity to engage. For every dog owner – no matter what the dog – looking for ways to engage with their dog that are fun, educational, and health conscious, we must find and seize opportunities to provide those experiences. And instead of declaring that declining forms of traditional revenue equate to the demise of our organization, we must embrace evolution. It’s a new year, and it’s time for a new AKC.

As always, your comments and suggestions are welcome at atk@akc.org.

Alan Kalter

Written by

  • Mary Yeakey, President, Poodle Club of Tulsa January 24, 2014 at 2:13 PM

    Mr. Kalter’s concern over falling AKC registrations is very understandable. But one facet of this change that he does not mention, perhaps consciously so, is that rescue organizations have “stolen the march” on the dog market. They have successfully made the case with the American public that somehow it is “nobler” to rescue than to buy a puppy.
    Of course, the rescue organizations are very quiet about the sources of their unwanted dogs, so that the general public does not see themselves as aiding and abetting the end game of the puppy mill scene, and other irresponsible breeders and owners. I’d like to see AKC come up with an advertising campaign, and guideline questions for the public to ask when considering purchasing a puppy. I think AKC cannot be “in bed” simultaneously with “high-volume” breeders, and responsible “hobbyist” breeders, and not find the public confused about buying from any breeder, ergo, they “rescue”. AKC should also push the “full litter registration concept” with responsible breeders. I do the full litter registration option so that I don’t find another of my poodles being shown in performance with a horrid name like: “Barbican Baby Absydabsygale”– true story.

  • Chris Walker
    chriswalker January 25, 2014 at 12:17 PM

    Thanks Mary for your comment and we appreciate opening up a 2-way dialogue with you. I think something that is very important to take from this is that we are not seeing a decrease in the demand for pure bred dogs, we are seeing a decrease in the number of registrations. We have seen much success in the last 12 months with breeders registering full litters and this is a very encouraging statistic. We absolutely feel that we need to aggressively market responsible breeders as the premier source of dogs in America. To do that we need to educate the general dog owner on the predictability and purpose of the breeds. If we can have people thinking about breeds rather than thinking about dogs then we can be very successful. They must find the right dog for them and their lifestyle. This will take time and needs to be built from the bottom up and AKC is actively working many channels to make that happen. What we need to speed this process up, is for people who believe in that message to stand-up and champion it. We also need to tell stories of the successful things we do and the benefits of buying a dog from a breeder. If the general consumer can see the breeder as a genuine and priceless resource throughout their lives with their new dog then they will chose the correct path.
    To your point, we have a list of questions that someone should ask when searching for a new dog (http://www.akc.org/press_center/facts_stats.cfm?page=responsible_breeder) and we continue to develop more resources for first time dog owners. We also see an opportunity with those looking to “rescue” a dog and they should be informed of our Parent Club rescues and opportunities to get involved with other AKC rescue network efforts.
    We would love to further continue the conversation and please feel free to email me at cxw2@akc.org and we can further discuss your thoughts and ideas. Thanks again for sharing.

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