Google Dog Days

Long time no see, eh?

Here’s a fun thing I did recently: Google Dog Days – an event held at their new Chicago office (new in the sense that they just moved locations within the city sometime last year) specifically targeting Googlers that have pet dogs as a sort of employee appreciation exercise.

We were reached out to along with PAWS – the other notable non-profit, non-government animal shelter in Chicago – and a number of other animal-focused organizations from various fields, including pet stores, veterinary centers, dog walking/sitting services, and more. Our roles there were primarily outreach and promotion, letting Google employees attending the event know about our organizations and the services that we offer.

Probably the main thing that I learned at Google Dog Days was that we should get some better SWAG (Stuff We All Get) to give away, or at least that I need a bit more variety. We have some cool and interesting things at the moment – the biggest hit usually being the dog- and cat-shaped rubber ducky toys (I know this sounds insane, so please see the below picture for an example) – but our current crop of giveaways are more generally geared toward a younger audience that we see during our Humane Education programming. I was outshone, to put it bluntly, by some of the other tables that were (by virtue usually of their inventories and ability to take the monetary hit at the expense of positive marketing) able to give away free treats, toys, and doggie accessories to Google employees in attendance.

ducks

I guess maybe a better way to put this is that I did not put enough forethought into tailoring the materials I brought for the audience I was going to see. I have this rolling suitcase in my cubicle that is filled with a lot of stuff – such as generic information about our shelter and programming, business cards, our giveaway items (e.g., branded pencils, paw print erasers, the aforementioned rubber ducks), copies of the Society magazine, educational DVDs that we made many years ago, and much more! – and these are the things that I lug around to all of these different outreach events, like Google Dog Days, volunteer fairs, pet de-stressing events at corporate offices, educator fairs, etc.

While most of these items are usually of some interest to the people I meet and open the door for a discussion about The Anti-Cruelty Society and the work that we do, I realized at this event that it would obviously be much more beneficial if I would’ve considered who my audience was going to be and what they might be expecting (or what would’ve been a pleasant surprise). This donned on me early on when I noticed a few of the other tables had brought dog treats. Duh! The whole point of this event was that Google employees could bring their dogs to work for the day and have a few hours to just hang out and interact with one another; of course you bring dog treats to hand out, because what better way is there to get a dog owner and his or her pooch to stop at your table to see what you’re there promoting?

Anyway, that got off on kind of a tangent. The Dog Days event itself was super cool and probably one of the more well thought out office appreciation events like this that I’ve attended. So in addition to having various informational tables and ways for the people attending the event to engage with their co-workers, the whole thing was built around a “dog show” where all of the employees could have a minute where their pooches got to be center-stage, complete with a runway to walk down (seems contradictory, doesn’t it?) and a host that would read the pre-written bio (by the owners, I would assume) about each pet’s unique personality. This was ultimately what really made this such a fun and engaging event, because it tapped into the very basic desire that all pet owners share: To show off exactly how their pet is the best dog/cat/parrot/turtle/etc. in the whole world!

The dog show was judged (by some of the other guests hosting tables) and did have “winners,” but the air was largely uncompetitive, carefree, and fun, which is also a testament to how well-organized the event was and how much effort was put into planning it. All in all, Google Dog Days lasted just under 2 hours, but for the employees who got to bring their beloved pets into the office, I’m sure the whole day was a real treat.

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