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Maxine's Magic How A Corgi Became The Muse For Pet Innovation


Maxine the Fluffy Corgi: How A Corgi Became The Muse For Pet Innovation

As the creator economy thrives, its tendrils are reaching beyond the familiar spaces of digital influencers and YouTube stars. There’s a surge within the pet realm—yes, our four-legged companions—that has offered entrepreneurs a niche but expansive playground. At the epicenter of this evolution stands Bryan Reisberg, who not only helms the ship for the blossoming pet brand ‘Little Chonk’ but also plays a pivotal role in this ecosystem through his canine muse, Maxine the Fluffy Corgi.

Reisberg embraces two distinct roles in his life. He serves as the CEO and co-founder of Little Chonk, a pet brand that has made a notable impact in its domain. Beyond his business responsibilities, he is also a dog dad to Maxine. Maxine is no ordinary Corgi; she has become an internet sensation with a remarkable following of 6 million across different social media platforms.

The trajectory of Bryan and Maxine’s journey is emblematic of the opportunities the creator economy holds. For many, the concept of turning one’s pet into a brand might seem novel, perhaps even whimsical. But Bryan’s endeavor with Little Chonk showcases the convergence of genuine passion and astute business strategy.

Bryan’s pedigree in filmmaking is undeniably distinguished. An alumnus of NYU’s celebrated film school, he made a name for himself early in his career. By 2014, he celebrated the premiere of his first feature at the notable South by Southwest film festival. But as life often has it, the most profound inspirations stem from personal joys. For Bryan, it was the arrival of a new family member – a fluffy corgi named Maxine – after tying the knot in 2015.

Reflecting on the time Maxine made her digital appearance, Bryan mentioned that influencers weren’t very popular at that time. He simply introduced Maxine to the online world as a playful and creative endeavor. He has always had a passion for photography and storytelling, and Maxine became his inspiration.

Given Bryan’s background, which includes a period in advertising and a rise to the position of a creative director, one might find it unexpected that he would focus on a pet’s social media presence. However, Bryan’s motivation was simple: he enjoyed creating entertaining content. His efforts weren’t about capitalizing on the influencer trend or having a specific strategy; it was purely for genuine, lighthearted fun.

As the years rolled by, while Bryan’s professional journey took him deeper into advertising, Maxine’s Instagram steadily gained traction. The pandemic saw her charming TikTok users too. Yet, the intent behind her digital persona remained unchanged, with Bryan noting, “From 2015 to 2021, while juggling my advertising job, Ikept making content for Maxine’s social media accounts.”

When asked if he ever envisioned his lovable Corgi, Maxine, becoming an internet sensation, Bryan’s response was unpretentiously honest. “To be honest, no,” he shared with a light-hearted chuckle. “The thought that ‘this dog could be famous’ just never crossed my mind. It’s… well, it’s kind of weird to even think of it that way.”

Bryan’s relaxed approach to Maxine’s digital presence is a breath of fresh air in a realm where metrics and virality often take center stage. He wasn’t aiming for trends or algorithms but merely sharing slices of joy. “I just went with the flow” Bryan elaborated. Occasionally “a video would pick up traction, and I’d think, ‘Oh, that’s fun. How funny!’” But pinning hopes or aspirations on such virality was definitely not something that Bryan anticipated.

Maxine’s Magic: How A Corgi Became The Muse For Pet Innovation

Managing a Pet Influencer

“What’s a unique challenge for pet influencers,” Bryan begins, “Going viral once doesn’t really mean anything. We’ve been doing this since 2015, so it’s really like a marathon. You really have to love doing it to stay with it because there’s peaks and valleys to this job, like anything else.” He emphasizes that a singular viral moment is just a fleeting snapshot in the grand tapestry of digital content. 

Bryan emphasizes the importance of consistency. Beyond the heartwarming scenes and captivating photos, there’s a calculated approach to maintaining the appeal. Maintaining a consistent presence, achieving regular viral moments, and securing a spot in popular culture is where the true challenge lies. Turning a pet influencer into a well-known brand with significant value isn’t just about presenting a charming animal. The pet must possess a clear identity or a trait that sets it apart. As Bryan puts it, one dog might be recognized for its training, while another is known as the backpack-carrying dog. Establishing such an identity requires effort, and there are no shortcuts.

Drawing parallels from some swift rises to fame, like Noodles the pug with the ‘No Bones day’ trend, Bryan acknowledges the occasional anomalies. However, he reiterates, “Nothing has changed in the world of branding. If your goal is to make [content creation] a long term career, it’s very time consuming.”

That being said, considering the intricacies of every platform, even Bryan sometimes feels the pull of following trends. Naturally, there’s an allure, and maybe even a need, to align with the algorithm to an extent. However, this has never been the primary approach for him. While he’s observed others shaping their content based purely on what the audience wants, Bryan’s journey with Maxine has consistently centered on the type of content they’re passionate about creating.

This approach, he believes, carries its own set of challenges and learnings. Recounting his early days, Bryan shares, “I would make videos that were high production value and they wouldn’t do well at all. They would just bomb.” This led Bryan to a phase of recalibration, finding that sweet spot between high craft and digital appeal. “We’ve had to go through years of kind of unlearning the craft a little bit to try and figure out what’s the middle ground.”

Bryan also touched upon the striking similarity across content, a pattern evident as one scrolls through platforms like Instagram or TikTok.”We try to carve out as much of an identity as possible. So we’re not being lumped in with the homogenization of other creators. If you just swipe really quickly through Instagram or TikTok, there’s a lot of it that looks the same, because there is a proven formula for success, with videos that have the same pacing and structure. For better or worse, we try and deviate from what everyone else is doing.”

Brand Partnerships

Recalling some of his standout collaborations, Bryan beams, “We’ve had a long relationship with Dell, which has been one of my favorite partnerships.” It might initially sound odd—a tech giant like Dell partnering with a dog influencer. But as Bryan delves into the reasoning, it becomes clear why such partnerships not only make sense but also offer a fresh narrative spin.

Bryan explains that the collaboration with Dell is about more than just displaying products. Through this partnership, they can spotlight various aspects of their journey, transitioning from content creators to entrepreneurs. This alignment intrigues their followers, presenting an unexpected twist: a dog being linked with a tech brand.

Bryan’s philosophy regarding collaborations emphasizes authenticity. He acknowledges the abundance of brands available, but believes that as content creators, they shouldn’t just promote a product solely for financial gain. To Bryan, maintaining the trust of his audience is crucial. This commitment to authenticity is apparent in his choices, be it partnering with brands he truly appreciates, like Barkbox, or those offering products he finds beneficial, such as the pet grooming brand, Waterpik.

With a rich background in advertising and film, Bryan understands the intricacies of brand objectives and showcasing products in just the right light. He adds, “From my advertising days, working with brands like Target and BMW gave me the experience to understand clients want to show off their product and how I can be creative in addressing some of their messaging goals.”

The synergy with Dell, as Bryan emphasizes, isn’t just a testament to Maxine’s charm or Dell’s vision. It’s a reflection of a collaborative spirit, where a brand willing to think outside the box meets a creator who understands its essence and can weave it seamlessly into his narrative.

While Bryan has a strong relationship with Dell, he understands the importance of being selective regarding partnerships.

Bryan acknowledges that while many might think all brand collaborations go without a hitch, the actual process often includes understanding brand guidelines, aligning goals, and making sure the content stays true to their unique voice. He has encountered instances where brands, possibly with good intentions, suggest changes that could diminish the content’s organic charm. Such alterations might involve prominently displaying a logo or adjusting certain aspects that take away from the content’s innate feel.

With a seasoned eye, Bryan has developed an intuitive knack to “read between the lines” of feedback. “I want them to hit their numbers” Bryan explains,  “So usually we get very close with the people that we communicate with on the brand side.” Being proactive, Bryan often takes the initiative to offer alternatives that fulfill the brand’s objectives while preserving content integrity.

Maintaining his core beliefs, Bryan underscores the significance of genuineness in collaborations. Should a partnership ask for an approach that doesn’t align with Maxine’s story or endangers the sincerity of the content, Bryan would prefer to skip the collaboration altogether. The bond he’s nurtured with his audience and the integrity of their content is more valuable than any monetary gain. He believes that while influencers play a crucial role in brand marketing, they’re just a part of a more extensive system. Their duty is to produce sincere content and represent products effectively.

Staying Connected and Relevant

“Just participate.  Participate in the conversation, be a part of what’s happening in the world.” Bryan urges. “This is of course a double-edged sword. Read the news, stay on top of social media, stay on top of trends. If there are things that you care about. Be a part of it. Join a Discord channel. Don’t just lurk on Reddit. Make content that speaks to you and you’ll find your audience.”

In an era where content saturation is real, Bryan has smartly diversified his engagement channels. “We also have this newsletter that we started called Dog Juice, which is great. We’re up to about 90,000 subscribers ” This newsletter is more than just a weekly update; it’s a passion project where Bryan, alongside Olivia’s dog dad Chris and a third partner, the co-founder at Little Chonk, deep dive into the pet industry’s pulse. 

Bryan’s approach is straightforward: If there’s genuine passion in a particular area, delve deep into it, not only as an active player but also as a leading voice in that space.

He often talks about shaping Little Chonk to be akin to what Nike is in the sports industry, drawing parallels from Phil Knight’s story of elevating running from a passing trend to a central aspect of sport through Nike. Bryan envisions a similar path. By introducing items like their dog backpack, Little Chonk aspires to reshape the connection between pets and their human companions, exposing them to enriched experiences that emphasize and amplify this relationship.

At its core, Bryan Reisberg’s methodology melds proactive involvement, heartfelt engagement, and an aspiration to bring specialized areas to the forefront of public attention. 

From Connected Content to Connected Commerce

Content creation certainly possesses a unique allure. Bryan recognizes the joy of creating content that brightens someone’s day, especially considering the positive feedback they’ve garnered over time. However, there’s a distinction between evoking a fleeting smile and creating enduring memories.

Bryan recalls an instance that underscored the transformative impact of their products. “We got a message from somebody who bought our dog backpack and they had a dog, 15 years old. The dog was dying. They got our backpack and they brought their dog on a hike.

They loved to go hiking with their dog in Red Rocks. And they brought their dog, a photographer and their family and [they] took a lot of lovely pictures. And then a few days later, the dog passed away and we got this incredible message from that dog’s mother just thanking us for being able to give them that memory or to build a product that allowed them to do that” Bryan shares. “It’s messages like that that are the most rewarding–to know that we’ve been able to successfully build a product that allows people to share those kinds of memories with their pets.”

For Bryan, such moments capture the genuine spirit of Little Chonk. It goes beyond just promoting a product or sharing humor; it’s centered on fostering meaningful experiences. Fulfilling a commitment and sincerely helping someone provides a unique satisfaction. Even though their content might offer momentary joy, the lasting memories they facilitate have a more lasting impact.

What’s next for Bryan and Little Chonk

“A lot of people now want a dog backpack for bigger dogs “Bryan explained.  Answering this call, Little Chonk is embarking on an exciting partnership. “We’re teaming up with one of my good friends, Cliff, who is the dog dad to the 70 lb. Brodie that Dood, another one of the biggest dogs on the internet. We’re going to develop a large hiking dog backpack, and name it after Brodie — The Brodie One.”

Bryan’s enthusiasm doesn’t end with their current offerings. He’s particularly excited about an upcoming venture: a unique dog water bottle that promises to be a game-changer. This creation underscores their dedication to addressing real concerns of pet parents.

Bryan’s excitement is evident as he discusses the pet industry. Despite its growth, there remain areas of opportunity. Their goal isn’t merely to address these gaps, but to transform the experience for pet parents entirely. Their vision encompasses groundbreaking pet products and solutions that tackle genuine challenges, painting a promising future.

Bryan emphasizes that their initiatives aren’t solely about introducing innovative products. They serve as a heartfelt gesture of gratitude to their supportive community. As they venture deeper into product innovation for Little Chonk and maintain engagement through their newsletter, Dog Juice, they remain steadfast in their objective: delivering unmatched value and solutions in the pet domain.

Nii A. Ahene

Nii A. Ahene is the founder and managing director of Net Influencer, a website dedicated to offering insights into the influencer marketing industry. Together with its newsletter, Influencer Weekly, Net Influencer provides news, commentary, and analysis of the events shaping the creator and influencer marketing space. Through interviews with startups, influencers, brands, and platforms, Nii and his team explore how influencer marketing is being effectively used to benefit businesses and personal brands alike.

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