From themed bandanas to full outfits, pet costumes have become a staple of the Halloween season. In fact, one in five pet owners plan to dress their pets for Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. So when SONIC launched their pet-friendly Wag Shop in October, it seemed only natural that pet costumes would be included in the lineup.
But for Tamara Stanley, SONIC’s Sr. Director, Integrated Marketing Communications and Social Strategy at SONIC the Wag Shop is more than adorable dog costumes.
“We’ve had the larger SONIC Swag Shop for about a year and a half now,” says Tamara. “We’ve done different things, but when we first launched it, we talked about, ‘oh, wouldn’t it be fun if we had a Wag Shop.’ And the thought just kept coming back to me – I knew I was going to find the right time to do it.”
Tamara has spent the last 16 years on SONIC’s Marketing team. For her, there’s something she’s noticed in her focus groups and customer interactions that just can’t be ignored. “Here’s the common thread: SONIC is such a great experience that you can have in your car – in your own insulated environment,” says Tamara. “So if you want to bring your dog, you bring your dog. If you want to bring your kids, bring your kids. You want to go by yourself so you can be alone, you do it.”
This ability to be in control of who you eat with was especially important over the past few years. SONIC became known as the fast food stop of choice, providing a moment of delight during the pandemic. “As we were planning this year, we knew we needed to continue to grow that brand relevance and brand love,” says Tamara. “To deliver in a way that our guests would agree with and go: ‘That’s why I come to SONIC’.”
For Tamara’s team, the answer was the long-awaited Wag Shop. “There are multiple ways to SONIC, and going with the dog is one of our absolute favorite,” says Tamara. “But we’d never nationally done anything to celebrate that we’re a great place to take your dog.”
Planning began on what has now become the SONIC Wag Cup, a free special whipped topping surprise for dogs with any purchase on the SONIC app during October. “Guests often visit their local drive-in to enjoy their favorite treats,” says Tamara. “Now, their four-legged companions can get a treat, too!”
Once the Wag Cup was finalized, Tamara’s team went through multiple designs to perfect the Cherry Limeade and Hot Dog costumes created by SONIC’s on-lot agency, Signal Theory. “Costume development is very hard!” laughs Tamara. “Just trying to get the hat where it’s the perfect little cherry on top, or where the costume sits on the dog so it doesn’t look weird when they walk, was a challenge.”
Among all the exciting final products that launched Wag Shop, for Tamara and her team, the best part is how guests have enjoyed them. “People are actually getting the merch and interacting with it. That’s the real fun,” says Tamara. “It was never our intention to sell out, and we’ve already sold out of the set of toys. That feels good to us – it means they were right for our guests.”
After almost two years in the making, the Wag Shop launched on Monday, October 3, 2022. “The Halloween season is always a fun time for our guests, so it was great to be able to launch during October,” says Tamara. “One of the other things our brand is famous for is our 50 cent corn dogs on Halloween. And we’re giving our guests the opportunity to dress up their dogs in all their costumes, get them a treat at SONIC, and now get their corn dogs – all at the same time!”