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Pet Parents and their Fur Babies: Marketing to the Pet Obsessed

According to IBISWorld Industry Report 45391 Pet Stores in the US, about 65.0% of US households own a pet, and ownership is growing fast. Pet ownership is happening at a younger age too, with Millenials getting their first pet as an adult at the average age of 21 compared to Baby Boomers at 29. With the growth of pet ownership, the natural rise in products and services geared towards pets is rapidly growing, creating a challenging environment for marketers in the pet industry to get the attention of pet owners. What are some areas that pet product brands should think about when marketing, whether you’re a well-oiled marketing machine or startup brand?

TAP INTO The Humanization of Pets

Pets have been increasingly humanized by their owners. These days someone’s pet may be your seatmate on a plane, getting pushed in a stroller, or a have a wardrobe that’s more extensive than yours. Beyond the products that enable this lifestyle, marketers should take note of these scenarios and leverage them in creative to create a connection to pet owners that they can relate to. We really need to think of our audience as “pet parents” and not just “pet owners.”

Are You Testing Your Creative?

You have a good campaign, you’re seeing good results in your media campaign, but are you maximizing its effectiveness? These days it is pretty efficient and inexpensive to get solid directional feedback on your creative, before rolling out your larger campaign push. Whether it is through testing different creative pieces on Facebook using the same audience parameters or an online research panel, the ability to get actionable feedback can turn your good results into great results.

Different breeds have varying levels of popularity in different markets. According to the AKC the Labrador Retriever is the top breed in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Seattle, and D.C, the French Bulldog in New York, San Francisco, and West Palm Beach, the Bulldog in Los Angeles, and the German Shephard in Miami. Using visuals of different breeds targeted to different markets can be one lever to pull to see if it makes an impact on performance. Even size may make a difference. A recent trend report for 2017 noted there is a higher percentage of homes that have dogs under 25 pounds than those that are over.

Is Your Message Resonating?

More than 80% of new pet food launches have health claims. While the health of pets is a top motivating factor in what they purchase if everyone is making similar claims will you stand out? Think about the benefits of your pet being healthy. Does it give them a more fulfilling life, more energy to play, stronger joints and bones that lead to less risk of injury, a happier mindset, better breath, more beautiful coat? But communicating the benefits of the product is just one aspect of building a strong message. What are you saying that creates an emotional connection to your brand? And what does it say about a particular pet owner if they choose your product? That self-expressive aspect that is ultimately a pet owner wanting to say to the outside world, “I am the best pet parent out there,” and that should be what you try and tap into.

Cause Marketing

Frankly, if you’re a pet product and you don’t have a cause marketing component that is part of your brand you are missing an opportunity. This starts with what the brand stands for and how a brand lives those values. But it can also be good for the bottom line. When Pedigree shifted some of their campaign messaging from talking about their products to talking about their brand’s support of pet adoption they saw a 40% increase in advertising effectiveness. One study found that 91% of Millennials would switch brands to one associated with a cause.

It’s not enough to just have a charity you support or donate a portion of the proceeds to that cause. It needs to be an integral part of your marketing and communications plan.

Petfluencers ( or Pet Influencers)

Pet Influencer Marketing

55% of Millennials with social media follow at least 1 pet on social media.  That doesn’t include those that follow actual people who frequently feature their pet. Social influencers’ impact is real and growing. People aren’t looking at other people they follow the same as a typical media channel, but rather as their peers. And with that comes an inherent trust. According to Nielsen, 83% of people completely or somewhat trust the recommendations of friends and family, and influencers can move the needle.

Finding the right influencers for your brand needs to be done with care. Focusing on their audience engagement rather than the size of their following is one of the first places to start. Working with influencers you get a feel for who cares about the content and who will take on almost any brand partnership that pays decently. You can even get rankings of top pets on social media at FurCardHere are a few pointers that we’ve learned through our experience setting up influencer campaigns for our clients:

  • Make sure that your brand fits within the influencers brand and that it won’t look like a forced partnership, but rather a natural alignment
  • Ensure their users are engaged – they are commenting, sharing, and liking the influencer’s content
  • Make sure the contract you have covers exact payment terms based on their deliverables and specifies usage rights of the content they create (e.g.-can you use the content they’ve created on your owned channels)
  • Agree up-front with what metrics they will provide to you and include that as a deliverable
The Rise of the Millenial Pet Owners

Marketing Pets to Millenials

We mentioned them previously, but no marketing article is complete without talking about Millenials. But in all seriousness, Millenials and Gen-Y are driving a huge amount of the industry growth. As mentioned earlier, people are getting their first pet as an adult at a much younger age. Additionally, Gen Y and Millenials account for 35% of all pet owners, surpassing Baby-Boomers.

Another factor that should be taken into consideration for targeting and creative is that there are also differences in genders amongst Millenial pet owners. In a recent survey, 71% of men between 18-34 had dogs compared to 62% of women (and 48% vs 35% for cats.

Millenials are more active on social networks, helping drive word-of-mouth. In The Millenial Pet Owner, by Wakefield Research there is evidence that shows what drives them to be inclined to share so much. Instances of Narcissistic Personality Disorder are 3x higher than those over 65, and “48% of Millennial women have removed a photo from social media because it didn’t get enough ‘likes.’” So tapping into their desire to share interesting things that will help them gain social currency amongst their peers can help your message earn more visibility.

According to that same research, their standards are higher, expecting toys that are BPA-free and made with organic materials, and food that is natural. So how do you connect with this audience and make your message resonate with them? Think about experiences and how your product makes the things that people and their pets are enjoying together even greater. What about the story behind your product?

All of these things should factor in when developing the user personas of who your target audiences are.

Need help with marketing your pet product? Get in touch with us and we’d love to help you reach pet parents and their fur babies.