Best-in-show pet care brands that get consumer tails wagging
Are you a cat person or a dog person? If neither of those get your tail wagging, how about hedgehogs, tortoises or tarantulas? It doesn’t matter whether your animal pals have fur, feathers or scales, the point is that the pet care industry is serious business.
According to our friends at Pulsar, the pet food industry alone was worth almost $100 billion in 2021 and was set to keep growing. Another forecast shows that pet care spending will reach nearly $188 billion in the next five years, with wearable tech and smart devices leading the charge. So, where do the opportunities lie for marketers in the space? Here are some of the most recent statistics that are showing paw-sitive growth for pet brands:
- These days, it’s all about pet parenting. 91% of owners consider their pets to be part of the family. 67% of people in Latin America prefer their pets to their friends (same). Pulsar’s The Power of the Dog (and Cat) shows the rise of the ‘fur baby’ and the increased anthropomorphism of pets.
- According to one report, 46% of US households are dog owners, 28% are cat owners and 16% have one of each! Dog owners typically have more disposable income, but cat owners spend more on their pets, averaging $380 a year ($50 more than dogs).
- Online shopping remains popular post-COVID, with 47% of consumers predicting their online shopping will increase in the coming months. This likelihood increases for dog owners, who purchase the majority of their pet supplies online.
- This changing perception of pets also means owners care more about what their four-legged friends eat. Owners are increasing their spend on more nutritious food and while big names such as Purina, Royal Canin and Hills are dominating market share, disruptors in the form of food subscription boxes are entering the market.
- The pet bubble is not likely to burst. Millennials are the most likely to become pet parents and their enthusiasm knows no bounds. Pet tech, such as activity trackers and feeders, offers a new playground for pet health and wellbeing.
TL;DR: you’d be barking mad to miss out. This raises two key questions, how can big brands that have historically dominated the space refresh their offering to appeal to a new generation of consumers? And how can new ones make themselves heard?
In this month’s spotlight, we’ll be examining some best-in-show campaigns across two areas of the pet care industry: insurance and food. Are you ready to find out who will be leaving with a blue ribbon?
What does a modern pet owner look like?
We’ve got a basic picture of what modern pet ownership looks like, but as our regular spotlight readers know (say it with me now), YOUR AUDIENCE IS NOT A MONOLITH. If the World Canine Organisation recognises 360 different types of dog, why would there be just one kind of pet owner? To help us paint a picture of the modern pet owner – and the segments within – we wanted to know how these consumers talk about their animal friends and the kind of content they engage with.
To do this, we built an affinity report which identified consumers who are talking about their pets online. This looked at the hashtags they use to talk about themselves, the kind of content they follow and share, and the people and brands they engage with online. We applied this criteria across our wide range of available platforms, including Meta.
Looking broadly at our audience of pet owners, we can see that one in five people around the world love animals. It tends to skew more female than male, and it also skews a little older. While consumers aged 25 to 34-years-old take up a large chunk of the total audience, the most vocal animal lovers tend to be 35+. This makes sense, given that the oldest millennials are now in their early 40s and the youngest are about to turn 30.
A few other interesting things stand out about our broad pet owner audience. The first is that pet lovers tend to have money to spare. The second is that even though some consumers are opting to spoil their pets in place of children, pet owners have a lot of love to give and tend to have larger families with children. Third, pet owners tend to be more ethical than the general population, caring deeply about nature and the environment.
While we can paint these broad strokes about what a pet owner might look like, it’s time to break it down. Looking more closely at our audience, we can see three clear segments: animal rights activists, animal lovers, and environmentalists.
Animal rights activist ✊🏾
- Our first segment is passionate about welfare and protection! They advocate for animal rights, and they are vocal about promoting wellbeing of both pets and wildlife in general. This advocacy shines through in how they talk about themselves and the content they engage with online.
- This segment skews much more female than our broader audience, with women taking up almost 70% of the segment. They’re also a little younger, with the 18- to 34-year-old demographic making up just under 50% of the total audience.
- This audience has a keen interest in connecting with like-minded people. This is demonstrated by the people and brands they follow which includes celebrities and ambassadors such as Peter Egan, Dominic Dyer and Marc Abraham, as well as specific welfare organisations such as Dogs Trust, Protect the Wild and League Against Cruel Sports.
- This segment also consumes very specific kinds of media, compared to the general popular. Top media affinities include celebrity vet Noel Fitzpatrick, BBC Springwatch, Animal planet, BBC Earth and National Geographic. If you want to meet this segment on their level, you need to focus on interest-specific media channels.
- Animal rights activists are community minded and therefore, they’re much more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family over brand names. But that said, they’re also likely to appreciate well-targeted online advertising.
Animal lover 🐈
- Next up, we have a segment of pure animal lovers. Over 40% of this segment is made up of the 25- to 34-year-old demographic and in stark contrast to our animal rights activist segment (which was largely UK) based, almost 90% of our animal lovers are based in the US and Canada! They are firmly ‘pet parents’ and typically have more than one pet in their household.
- This segment exhibits just as much compassion for animals as our activist segment, but their attention is focused on providing an exceptional quality of life for their pets. This extends to their health, wellbeing, and nutrition; making them the perfect marketer for disruptive pet food brands looking to provide tailored experiences.
- For animal lovers, their passion also influences their hobbies. This segment likes to participate in activities that include their animal friends – think dog yoga and Puppuccinos – as well as participate in shows and competitions.
- In terms of their online habits, this audience is almost three times more likely to be using medium than the general population. They can also be found on Pinterest, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram, as well as participating in hashtags such as #caturday, #whiskerswednesday and #animallovers.
- Animal lovers are likely to be influenced by other animal lovers, but much like our activist segment, they’re much more likely to trust recommendations from friends and family over brand names.
- Finally, we have our environmentalist segment. These consumers aren’t just interested in animals, they’re fascinated by the natural world. Their interests include nature, ecology, climate change and championing causes that put animals and the planet above human consumption.
- This audience is based all over, but about 40% of it is split pretty evenly across the K and the US. We also see Japan, Italy and Canada appear in top regions, potentially due to the incredible natural beauty in those countries.
- This segment is more 50/50 in terms of male and female split, but our data (particularly on Meta platforms such as Facebook and Instagram) shows that environmentalists are more likely to be parents above the age of 35.
- Looking at the people and brands they’re influenced by, this segment tends to follow cultural voices and accounts that promote peace, love and tranquillity. They’re also significantly more likely to be following social media channels that post nature, wildlife and landscape photography to get their fix.
- This desire to see and share beautiful photography is reflected in their online behaviour. This segment is spending time on Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram, with a significant proportion more likely to be on Pinterest than other segments.
How pet brands are getting consumer tails wagging
First up in our Insurance category, we’ve got a paw-some campaign from PetSure, an Australian-based pet insurance company who set out to educate owners on the importance of insurance with some seriously cute creative.
Despite being a nation of animal lovers, PetSure discovered that only 17% of dog owners and 12% of cat owners took our insurance… despite almost 70% of the nation owning a pet. They also recognised an opportunity, with pet ownership surging in a post-pandemic environment. This lack of awareness of the importance of insurance was costing their target market serious cash, with the average Australian spending almost $500 a year on vets.
To promote their GapOnly insurance product, they used adorable pet photos to highlight how those costs can quickly rack up when you have an opportunist pet that likes to eat things they shouldn’t (every pet parent’s worst nightmare). The campaign featured paid social, PR and influencer marketing to explore the different mishaps that can befall owners and their beloved pets. They also made use of programmatic OOH targeting, selecting locations near pet stores and vet clinics to catch consumers at the right moment.
Next up we have insurance brand ManyPets, who used their first ever outdoor campaign to shine a spotlight on the pure joy pets bring us. From personal trainer to anti-stress balls and legal highs, this playful campaign got up close and personal with some furry faces to quantify the wellbeing benefits of pet ownership.
This campaign perfectly taps into the animal lovers’ segment, using adorable visuals to draw in their target market and stimulate a quick burst of serotonin. Its message, to protect your loved ones, taps into the pet owner’s audience's deep compassionate roots. It also clearly reflects the changing mindset among pet owners that pets are about more than just companionship, they bring a range of physical and mental wellbeing benefits that make them a cherished member of the family.
Talking about the campaign, Lucy Jameson of Uncommon said: “Pets make everything better. They don’t only bring us joy, they also have a proven positive impact on both our mental and physical wellbeing. In a world of stress and chaos, pets are more important than ever. We spotted there was a huge role and tension for ManyPets to play into here. We wanted to remind people that they have to insure their pets to ensure their happiness.”
Top marks for pet food brand JustFoodForDogs in our Food category, with their hilarious guerrilla campaign on the streets of New York. They used carelessly left piles of dog poo to create mini billboards, advising owners on how they can improve their pet’s diets.
Working with Walrus - an agency that describes itself as world-famous for smart, funny and distinctive ideas – they left notes stuck in piles of poo providing education on how diet can improve stool quality and improve your dog’s overall health. While a little bit disgusting, and also highlighting the issue of careless owners that don’t pick up poo, it certainly gets it point across and is a creative way of bringing real-world education to their ideal consumer.
Remember when we said big brands are still battling it out? Whiskas are on the front-paw of consumer needs, with two clever campaigns that tap into pet parent’s sense of social purpose and their love of spoiling their pets.
The first campaign comes from India, where Whiskas used their brand recognition to help more cats find their purr-fect home. Using the hashtag #BringHomeCuriosity, they ran a four-week campaign which made a virtue of their independence, encouraging potential pet parents to choose a pet who can fit around their busy lives. They created a 30-second film which aired on one of India’s largest entertainment platforms, which adorably promoted the joy of cats, in a country where cats are not typically the preferred choice of pet.
More recently from Whiskas is a brand-new campaign titled ‘Whiskas – Even The Fussy Cats’, designed to showcase their new range of Tasty Mix, Duo and Pure Delight Good. Partnering with AMV BBDO, they create several short films which show pet owners the innermost thoughts of their cat to showcase their fussy behaviour to its full glory. This campaign works well because every pet parent has experienced the pain of their pet one day deciding that the food they once loved is now the most disgusting thing they’ve ever seen. Cute creative and solving a pain point? A winning combination.
Before we wrap up this month’s spotlight, let’s take a moment to review the key takeaways for pet brands.
- Make use of the cute factor – One thing all of our best-in-class brands had in common was their commitment to putting the cutest faces at the forefront of their campaign. The end user of your product is quite possibly one of the most adorable creatures on the planet, make sure to use them to appeal to their owner.
- Pay attention to values – We saw from our segments that each of our pet parents come with their own set of values and interests, but they’re all committed to the wellbeing of animals. Use this compassion and advocacy in your campaigns to have maximum impact and tug on heartstrings.
- Present solutions to problems – No matter what you’re selling, the chances are your product is trying to address a problem or a need, whether that’s an immediate one or a future one. Cleverly tying your solution into your overall messaging will help position your brand as a helpful friend, which will inspire loyalty in the long run.
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