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03 May 2023

Pet brands: How do you become best in show?

Image © Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, 'Doggystyle'

The global pet industry is nothing if not resilient. Growing through recessions and a global pandemic, tough times have seen pet brands of all shapes and sizes not just survive but thrive. No shock that it’s Millennials and Gen Z to thank for such a boom. These spending powerhouses together form a new generation of pet owners – one whose lifestyle choices, shopping habits and value-led motivations have created demand for new products, services and brands for their beloved fur babies.

But resilience isn’t invincibility. And with what feels like every brand and their dog (cat and budgie) entering the market, how do you ensure you’re not left in the doghouse?

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From mutts and moggs to ‘mini-mes’

The humanisation of pets is no new trend. Arguably, it’s been influencing the category since Paris popped a pom’ in her purse. For years, the rise in pet ownership amongst Millennials has been attributed to a parenting practice run, with terms like ‘fur baby’ and ‘pawrent’ cropping up in our vernacular and millions of social media accounts dedicated to our furry friends.

It doesn’t take a psychology degree to see that we project a lot of us onto them. Keeping on top of the ‘needs’ of pets means simply keeping on top of the needs of their owners. So what’s new?

Image © Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, 'Doggystyle'
Image © Daniel Gebhart de Koekkoek, 'Doggystyle'

Since the pandemic our motivations have become more self-indulgent in response to a period of intense anxiety and burn out. We’ve prioritized our own wellbeing and evolved ‘health’ into wellness, holistically pulling food, travel, beauty, sustainability, you-name-it-under the banner of ‘self-care’. And yes, our pets fall under that banner now too, with 25% of pet owners in the U.S. reporting that the pandemic made them more aware of their pet’s health too. (Nationwide).

Where it could get interesting, however, is the evolution of the role pets play in our lives. In the US and further afield, fertility rates are dropping, with Gen Z and Millennials faced, not only with important economical and ecological factors to consider, but what the freedom of a child-free life offers. Meaning pets less of a practice run and more the main event – chosen for companionship, anxiety alleviation, and physical qualities that reflect their lifestyle and ‘aesthetic’.

What does this all mean?

The humanisation trend isn’t going anywhere but it is evolving. Keeping up with pets means keeping up with people.

Consider evolving audience motivations and how this might be reflected back in the relationships people have with their pets. Are they still our fur babies? Or are we giving them their own main character narrative?

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Living vicariously

A new generation of pet owners means a new generation of food, treats, toys, clothes, services and subscriptions. If you can have it, chances are your pet can have it too – recession be damned! In fact, pet owners aren’t willing to forsake spending on premium, natural or branded pet products even when feeling the pinch. It’s reported that they’d rather cut down on their own treats rather than those of their loyal companion – begging the question, are we living vicariously through our pets?

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Blog YETI Dog Bowl 1592x2000

Kind of yeah. Gen Z are reportedly spending double the amount on their pets than over–55s (Money Supermarket). And it’s not just pet brands enjoying the spoils. Lifestyle brands are developing products fit for today’s owner/pet relationship dynamic – think Yeti dog bowls, pet playlists on Spotify and even a $5k Gucci pet bed. Cute. But what’s resonating goes deeper than the gimmick of mimicry.

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The brands that win understand and enhance the time we share with our pets, because let’s face it, it’s never as long as we’d like. Spending is driven by emotion and indulging them is really indulging ourselves.

What does this all mean?

We want to feel closer to our pets. Think about how your brand experience, service and product can help facilitate that – be it on a physical or emotional level.

The modern pet industry has been dubbed ‘recession proof’ but that’s no excuse to rest on your laurels. Lifestyle brands with emotional equity have entered the game – failing to connect could mean a wasted opportunity.

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Blog Pet Tech 2 1592x2000

A consumer’s best friend

Technology, urbanisation and sustainability have shaped the pet care landscape for good, offering more convenience and choice to a wealth of different lifestyles. The industry has grown and growth is good. But standing out in your category now – regardless of whether you're an established stalwart in retail or a shiny new direct-to-consumer darling – becomes exponentially more difficult. Whether they’re strolling down the pet store aisles, or scrolling through the endless influx of DTC websites, consumers are faced with a paralysis of choice.

Luckily, while bricks and clicks may have their respective challenges, the answer to standing out is the same. Gen Z and Millenials are often tarred as fickle, but the reality is that the right values, a clear purpose and clever promotional tactics will win attention every time. When the standard for brands are set high for themselves, you can imagine how high that benchmark sits for their pets.

What does this all mean?

A cookie cutter approach won’t cut it – consumers want different and distinct experiences. Successful brands are backed by a strong purpose (not a ‘tick-box’) and answers a genuine need.

Prioritize mission-driven storytelling that pulls on the heartstrings of your audience and gives them added value.

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Much like the relationship between people and their pets, winning loyalty with your audience doesn’t need to be complicated – but it can be fun. If you’d like to chat with us more, we never need an excuse to talk about cute animals.

Explore Pet Care

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Pet Brands