Not a Pet, But a Family Member: The Evolution of Pet Marketing

Pets have graduated to full-fledged family members. Here’s what brands need to know to ensure their pet product marketing is keeping pace.

Pets aren’t really pets anymore. Today, many people are more likely to regard themselves as “parents” rather than “owners” of their animals — and they want the very best for their children. Pet product marketing needs to reflect this cultural change — and brands that fail to adapt will soon fall out of favor with pet-crazed consumers.

Trending towards humanization

One stroll through a pet store or a dog park will tell you everything you need to know about how the treatment of pets in society has evolved. A generation or two ago, parents would often purchase or adopt a dog or a cat “for the children” and then provide the animal with the bare minimum level of care and attention.

Today’s pets are comparatively lavished with attention, and there are a few reasons for this shift. First, millennials have delayed marriage and child-rearing longer than any previous generation, largely due to economic uncertainty. Pets serve as “proxy children” or “starter children” for many people in this segment.

Second, the proliferation of social media has created a situation where everyone wants to document and share their lives – and pets play a major role in this. Open up Instagram, Facebook or any other social app, and you’ll be deluged with animal photos.

Pet ownership numbers have also sharply increased, rising from 56% to 68% over the last three decades. As you might expect, younger people are overrepresented in pet ownership, accounting for 62% of all pet owning households.

How the pet industry – and pet ownership – are evolving

Changing cultural dynamics around pet ownership are reflected in larger trends inside the pet industry. Let’s take a closer look at a few of the most important trends, and how pet product marketing is adapting.

  • Direct to consumer pet boxes 

 Brands have used the DTC subscription box model to great effect, as it allows consumers to feel like they are receiving a gift in the mail each month and doesn’t require driving to a brick and mortar shop. This model has been especially successful in the pet sector; brands such as Bark have experienced fast growth by shipping curated boxes of dog treats and toys direct to consumer doorsteps.

  • Elevated pet food 

The days of feeding pets undifferentiated food brands of questionable quality are over. Today, pet owners are buying pet food much in the same way they purchase human products — and pet food marketing should reflect this. Witness the recent craze over grain-free dog food, which mimics in some ways the “gluten-free” craze of the last few years.

  • TV for dogs 

Pet parents are understandably worried about leaving their animals alone for extended periods of time. Dog TV — a new network that creates dog-centric television programming – purports to solve this problem. When you depart for work in the morning, you can position your dog in front of the TV screen, where he can watch hours of programming calibrated to his interest and level of understanding.

  • Dating apps for dog lovers 

People have famously highlighted pet photos in their Tinder profiles for years, but Dig takes this to the next level. Dig is a dating app for dog lovers that helps set up canine-friendly dates. Unlike other dating apps, women outnumber men by a significant portion on Dig, which gives the app another interesting wrinkle.

Finding the right pet care marketing agency

Most pet product marketing agencies produce campaigns that are all bark with no bite. Bigeye is different – we’re a team of talented creatives, tech wizards and strategic thinkers, and we all have one thing in common: We love pets, and we’re great at producing high-level pet industry market research.

Come visit our website, and we’ll be sure to show you a few tricks to help you catalyze your next pet product marketing campaign.

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The US Pet Food Industry

Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine, explains new innovations in the pet product industry.

In Clear Focus this week: industry innovations in pet food, packaging, and pet product marketing. Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine, explains what’s new and notable in the world of pet care. In this episode, we learn about emerging trends in pet food packaging, the use of insect-based protein as an ingredient, and the kind of online content that engages pet owners the most. We also hear why highly personalized diets for pets, based on DNA testing, might soon be available.

In Clear Focus: The Petfood Industry

In Clear Focus this week: industry innovations in pet food, packaging, and pet product marketing. Debbie Phillips-Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine, explains what’s new and notable in the world of pet care. In this episode, we learn about emerging trends in pet food packaging, the use of insect-based protein as an ingredient, and the kind of online content that engages pet owners the most.

Episode Transcript

Adrian Tennant: You’re listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising. Produced weekly by Bigeye. I’m your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of Insights at Bigeye. An audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency, Bigeye is based in Orlando, Florida, but serves clients across the United States and beyond. Bigeye’s pet marketing services, promote pet-related products and services through strategically targeted communications to engage with owners and veterinarians. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today. If you’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS since our first episode, you’ll know that earlier this year, Bigeye undertook a national study into the behaviors and attitudes of pet owners. As a pet care marketing agency, we were interested in the findings that suggested new behaviors among younger pet owners, especially with regards to the kinds of foods they choose for their pets and how they’re most likely to seek recommendations. In today’s show, we’re joined by a guest who is truly immersed in the topic of pet food and a professional observer of pet food marketing. Debbie Phillips-Donaldson is editor-in-chief of the magazine Pet Food Industry. Debbie directs all content for the magazine plus the website, petfoodindustry.com, e-Newsletters, Petfood Forum conferences, and related media and publications. Debbie has been in the industry and with Watt Global Media, the parent company of Petfood Industry since 2006. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Debbie.

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Can you help us understand the industry and its economics? Who are the biggest players in the US pet food industry right now?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, the industry overall, globally and in the US is very top-heavy. So you have some very large companies dominating the market. Close to 50% market share combined, and then a lot of middle-sized companies and then a lot of smaller and newer companies, which happens to be where a lot of the innovation comes in honestly. Not that the other companies aren’t innovating, but not to the degree I would say as these smaller companies. So anyway, in the United States, Nestle, and Mars – that’s Purina and Mars Petcare – are by far the biggest, and then followed by JM Smucker, which has brands such as Big Heart and Rachel Ray and then Hill’s Pet Nutrition, and then Diamond Pet Food, and Blue Buffalo. Blue Buffalo might be overtaking one or two of those other ones, they’re now part of General Mills and continuing to grow. We actually have a resource on our website called the top pet food companies database and it’s global, and we track the revenue of companies from around the world and we update that once a year. That’s where I’m getting that information from.

Adrian Tennant: That sounds like it’s a great resource. Thank you for sharing. Are there any new or challenger brands that you see having an impact on the industry?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, I can’t really point to any specific brands. What I would do instead is talk about some categories, and these probably aren’t a surprise to you or any of the listeners. There’s all the quote-unquote newer formats. So traditionally pet food’s been dry kibble or wet canned pet food. But in the last several years, probably more five to 10 years, formats like raw, freeze-dried, fresh, egg, all of those have definitely caught the attention of pet owners and retailers and they’re some small parts of the market, but they’re growing pretty quickly. And I would also point to customized diets. Usually offered via subscription or direct to consumer models. That’s a new and upcoming category. Again, still small, but it seems like every time you turn around there’s a new company out there. And then you know, just the companies that are really innovating based on new types of ingredients and nutrition information. So one, for example, based on genomics or the microbiome. And you have products based around things like insect protein, which is not yet legal to use in the United States, but it’s definitely being studied and being tracked to become legal. And then you have culture products, there’s a brand out there called Wild Earth that bases its products on Koji, which is some kind of cultured fungus thing. I’m not describing it well, but it’s called Wild Earth and if you look it up, it’s a very interesting new concept.

Adrian Tennant: Wow. This whole area of pet food ingredients is really interesting. How has US consumer concerns about sustainable farming methods or organic produce kind of influenced how pet food ingredients are being sourced now?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: It’s definitely influenced by that. Not a lot of data on it and what I do know, it’s still a small part of the market, but it’s just like with every other product category, consumers are starting to care a lot more with their food, or the pet food about where the ingredients come from, how it’s produced, how the animals producing are treated. For example, one claim that is tracked is made in the USA, which is sort of related and that’s very attractive. It’s about 30% of dog and cat food buyers in the US say that’s a draw for them. And organic, even though it’s not, the sales numbers don’t show it about six to 8% say that’s attractive to them. Locally sourced and humane or ethically raised. And they come in about three to 4%. And this is based on a consumer survey for package backs by the way.

Adrian Tennant: Great. Now I can’t leave it, you mentioned insect protein. What’s that about?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: It’s a very interesting and growing part of at least as a focus and attention. Even though in the Western world most people think of eating insects as yucky, there are places all around the world where people, it’s part of their staple diet. South America, the Middle East, Asia, Africa. I mean, it’s really not a foreign concept everywhere. In the Western world, it’s starting to be looked at very carefully because insects can be raised at a scale to be processed and everything and they’re much more environmentally friendly in terms of how much land use, which is negligible compared to say livestock, traditional livestock. Use much less water, much less processing energy, et cetera, et cetera. Right now it’s not affordable at a scaled level because it’s still fairly new. Although in Europe it’s a little bit more advanced than here because it has been approved for use in a lot of different species. I think with all the innovation and development happening, it’s starting to become more … If you are in a place like Germany for example, there’s a large pet trade show every two years called Interzoo, and I’ve seen complete pet diets available that have insect protein. Here in the US, it’s okay to use in treats. And so you will see treats with cricket meal protein, the company that’s making that is called Jiminy’s. And they actually have developed the food and they’re trying to get it approved to sell in the different states. 

Adrian Tennant: Fascinating. In the human food world, certainly lab-based or plant-based foods from Beyond Meat, the Impossible Burger for sure have captured the headlines, and I think the imagination of investors, it seems. Is there a similar kind of movement towards lab-based proteins in the pet food industry?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Very, very nascent. I’ve heard of one company for example called Beyond Animal that’s doing some, it does some cultural work with a probiotic and now they’re looking at something to do with mouse cells, and it’s very early on in the development, but that’s their end goal. I mean, dogs are technically omnivores. Some people say they are carnivores, but they’re really omnivores and so there actually are some vegan dog foods or vegetarian dog foods that are on the market that are safe. Cats have to have meat as a source because they just have a different physiology and they can’t force some essential amino acids from plants. They have to have it from meat sources. So none of that’s really been studied in terms of using all non-meat for pets overall, and especially it probably wouldn’t work for cats, I’m assuming. I don’t know that, but it’s not been studied at all.

Adrian Tennant: Interesting. Now you mentioned the lack of studies in this area. Cannabidiol or CBD – is that being embraced by large manufacturers or does that remain a niche only being exploited by smaller independent brands?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, if any large manufacturers are using it, they’re probably not talking about it yet, because it’s really not legal. I mean technically it’s not legal for humans, and it’s definitely not legal for pets. Even though you will see if you go to a pet trade show, you will see hundreds of products having CBD and including edibles like treats especially. But I think it’s because the FDA just hasn’t caught up yet. I have started hearing that some companies are getting warning letters for marketing products with CBD and claims around it. The sort of approved way to use them for pets is with supplements because there is a separate process, regulatory process and certification process with supplements that some companies are pursuing with CBD. But I’m sure companies are looking at it because it has so much interest and play in the market. But at this point, the large manufacturers, why would they take that risk? They would get all the attention from regulators that they took that kind of risk. I don’t think they’re doing it. Except probably studying it behind the scenes and waiting to see if the regulations catch up.

Adrian Tennant: Interesting point. We have been tracking CBD quite closely in this podcast and in our publications. We found in the 2019 US pet industry study, that 17% of our respondents were already administering CBD products to their pets, and 42% who are not currently using CBD are very open to its use. So it seems like there is some, more than consumer interest, but consumer demand there. So it’ll be interesting to see when the FDA and the FTC line up on what is and isn’t allowed.

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Exactly. Yeah. Again, I think there’s so many out on the market that probably just couldn’t even keep up with it if they had an interest to try to crack down on people. That’s my guess. I know that there’s some things happening behind the scenes of trying to, the FDA especially trying to come to terms with it, but I don’t know where that process is. Regulatory bodies don’t tend to move very quickly.

Adrian Tennant: Now your publication reported that 34% of cats and 19% of dogs were a reported obese in 2018. How is the industry tackling this problem?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Honestly, and I probably will get myself in trouble saying this, but probably not as well or to the extent it should. There’s a lot of brands have weight control formulas of course, and for several years now regulations have mandated that pet foods will have calorie counts, but the problem is that the way that they’re posed, they don’t necessarily translate with pets the way they might when you see it on a human food package. And so it’s difficult for consumers to understand it. I mean, I don’t even understand to be quite honest. You have to do some math. And the thing about pets too is that they may be even more individual than we as humans are, and they can’t really tell you what’s working and what isn’t. So that is an issue and there actually is a very robust movement underway. Again, it’s within a regulatory body, so it’s not moving fast. But there is a movement to update pet food labels to make them more user-friendly for consumers. And I think that’s part of it, the calorie count aspect… the number of pets that are overweight or obese are coming from veterinarians, what they see in their practice. And if you combine overweight with the obesity, it’s over 50% for both cats and dogs. But when they survey pet owners to ask do you think your pet is overweight or obese, it’s much lower. It’s like 20%. So there’s a very big, they call it the fat gap. It’s a big misunderstanding about what the pet should look like and be at a healthy weight. What a healthy weight is. Or it’s a deniability. I think that’s part of the problem is that it’s really difficult for anyone to tackle this if you have this perception that’s just so off base. And it’s something that I think that the pet food industry could do more about probably concerted effort with veterinarians, but it hasn’t happened yet. It’s just not there yet.

Adrian Tennant: So how far away are we from having personalized pet diets, maybe based on DNA testing, to maintain an optimal weight?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Pretty close, I think. Probably similarly close as to what it is in humans and my guess is five to 10 years at most. I mean some of the companies that are doing the subscription direct to consumer models are doing what they’re saying are customized and personalized diets, they’re not specifically … There’s one for example called Nom Nom Now, but from what I understand, a pet owner registers, they answer some questions about their pet and then they would get a recommendation for a diet. But it’s probably one of four or five that the company offers. They are, however, doing all kinds of research behind the scenes to get to the point of recommending and selling a very specific diet for a specific pet. They have a separate group of parents that they’ve incentivized to provide even more information plus the DNA samples of this test and they’re taking that and doing just all kinds of interesting things to learn more about not only pets, about pets in general, and their microbiome and genomes and everything. It’s fascinating stuff. And I don’t understand most of it because I’m not really a scientist, I’ve spoken to the scientists behind this and spoken at one of our conferences this past year and it’s really fascinating. And I’m sure they’re not the only ones doing it. I mean I know there’s some research evidence on the universities too, so I think it’s pretty close, much closer than you might imagine.

Adrian Tennant: And that service you mentioned, that’s a subscription or direct to consumer model, is that correct?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Yes.

Adrian Tennant: Do you think that’s where most innovation is happening kind of in the direct to consumer world right now?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: That’s one area I would say yes, because honestly if you look at the products themselves, you know there’s really not a whole lot of truly innovative new pet foods out there. We talked about some of the newer formats, but those aren’t really all that new. So I think the whole personalized, even if at this point is just a, hey, tell us about your pet and do one of our diets that seems most appropriate for it. I think that is an area of innovation. But you know, we live in a world of Amazon, and Chewy.com. Maybe people like the subscription model and the direct to consumer. I think it’s very convenient. If you have a big dog, it’s really hard to go out and buy a huge bag of dog food and lug it home. Having it delivered right to your door helps a lot. So, I mean that’s a big growing distribution area too.

Adrian Tennant: What’s missing? You have a unique perspective into the pet food industry. Where do you see untapped opportunities for new product development?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: That’s probably the million-dollar question that everyone in the industry is asking. And I’m sure there’s lots of very smart people doing research and work at looking at that. From what I know, I definitely think that the whole microbiome and genome thing offers all kinds of promise. And that’s true for people too. You know, it’s just fascinating what they’re learning every day or every year about what our microbiome, how much it influences every part of our body and anatomy. That’s one. I think the whole ingredients, you mentioned and asked about the cultured meat, lab-grown meat, we talked about insect protein. I mean I think that’s really where a lot of the new stuff is coming on because it ties into the sustainability issue, which is becoming more important to consumers and I think they’re getting to a point where they’re willing to pay more for things they think are more sustainable and that means ingredients that can come from sources that don’t take as much land or water to raise.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. Let’s change gears a little bit. What are some of the most novel pet food packaging solutions that you’ve seen? 

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: You know Tetra Pak, which is not really new, but it’s somewhat newer to the petfood industry. So it’s the carton type things and you’re seeing more and more of those being used for different kinds of products. Often wet products, but also treats. You see at least one of the bigger categories and growing categories, I should say bigger growth categories in the industry, is toppers and mixers and things so that you can spice up your dog’s normal kibble or feel like you’re doing a little bit more for your dog or cat if you add something to their regular diet. And a lot of those liquid ones especially come in different kinds of packages like Tetra Pak. We’re also seen for canned products and things like that instead of being cans, you’re seeing a lot more of the smaller plastic containers that are a little bit more unique and interesting and a little bit more convenient to use and also to store. In cans if you don’t use the whole one at once. That’s where I’m seeing it. I’m sure there are other things out there being looked at that I’m not aware of.

Adrian Tennant: I did not know that we had pet condiments. So toppers are condiments on pet food, is that correct?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Essentially. I mean that’s one way to look at it. They’re usually, sometimes they actually can be complete and balanced meals, but they’re usually not. They’re usually, it’s sort of like a treat only instead of you feeding separately out of your hand, you would pour it on top of their food. Yeah, it’s a rising category.

Adrian Tennant: So what are some of the biggest changes that you’ve observed in the way that pet food is either retailed or marketed in the last decade or so?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, definitely online, of course. I mean that’s having a huge impact on every aspect of our lives and every kind of product that we buy, and it’s certainly true in pet food too. And in fact in the US, according to sources like Packaged Facts, online growth is what’s keeping the industry growing, overall. Because the other channels, if you look at sales just you know, breaking down by channel, the other ones are flat to declining, and so online growth is really fueling it. Then the other thing I would say is that just in general, and again this is true, I think in a lot of categories, human food and everything is that you seeing all kinds of shifting and blurring of channel lines. So in pet food or pet products, it used to be that the more premium, higher-end products were sold in pet stores. And then you had in your more mass outlets, grocery stores and discount stores and things, you had the lower price things and stuff. I mean that’s really no longer true. There’s this phenomenon that’s been called mass premiumization in pet food where companies have figured out how to take a lot of those higher-end ingredients and different more specialized label claims like natural and grain-free, et cetera, and sell them at a price point that works at a grocery store or Walmart. And it’s changed things dramatically. And that’s even aside from what’s happening online, you know. So of course that also plays into product development for the industry and how brands segment their different product lines.

Adrian Tennant: So I’m interested to know more about your role as editor in chief of Petfood Industry Magazine. How did you come to be in your current position?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well, I’m a journalist by education and training and I have a background in both publishing and business publishing. I used to work in a previous life years ago for some consumer pet magazines. And then before I came to Watt, I was with an association that was geared toward business. And so it just kind of was a nice marriage of those two things.

Adrian Tennant: So what’s the most outrageous, amusing or just extraordinary pet food industry story that you’ve covered?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: There’s been a lot over 13 years. I’m not sure I’d know where to start. Some of the ones I said I probably would get in trouble talking about publicly. But I think one thing that’s interesting to mention is like I was saying, business to business media, but we do get readers, consumers reading our content because it’s online. We do use social media. A lot of our content you have to register to use, but it’s free. So we will get consumers reading and commenting on our content. So what’s interesting to me is that there are certain types of articles or topics that we know are always going to get a huge reaction. So for example, raw pet food. Not so much, we report on recalls and things like that, but if someone writes a blog post or a column about here’s why raw pet food is … You need to be careful with it. It just blows up. It’s unbelievable. And I mentioned earlier the fact that some people believe dogs are carnivores and they’re really physiologically omnivores. And we have a guest blogger who one of his very first blogs, it was a couple years ago, said your dog is not a wolf and that got by far, the most traffic we’ve ever received for any piece of content. And the most comments. I mean the comments just went on for days and miles. And a lot of the consumers, you know, you can usually kind of tell if it’s someone from the industry or not. It’s just to me, very interesting. And sometimes amusing, but you know, people feel very passionate about the pets and about certain ways to feed them. Some people have very strong beliefs about, I believe this is the best way to feed my dog or dogs in general. And they are not afraid to express that passion.

Adrian Tennant: I mean, exactly. In our 2019 US pet industry study, 95% of respondents said that they consider a pet a part of their family. So not too surprising to see that passion and the engagement that you’ve received online. So it sounds like you see a lot of press releases. How can PR professionals capture your attention as the editor in chief?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Well I would yes, I receive dozens a day to be quite honest. And I’ve gotten on some lists that are not at all relevant, but I also get on a lot of lists that are not relevant specifically to us. I would just say, and I don’t know how much time PR professionals have to devote to this, but spend some time to target your list. We are very focused on pet food and treats so we don’t cover all the pet products. And I get press releases about every single pet product you can think of. Every book about pets that comes out and most of them are just delete, delete, delete. Plus we’re not a consumer. Even though as I just said, we do get consumers who are in our content army and our target audience is business to business and if you know, someone would bother to even look at the name of our website or magazine, Petfood Industry is pretty clear, at least to me. So you know, just spend some time to target who you’re sending these press releases out to.

Adrian Tennant: So it’s been very enlightening. Thank you so much for your time today, Debbie. If listeners want more information about your publication, where can they find you?

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Petfoodindustry.com is our website. We also do have a group page on LinkedIn called, if you just search under groups for pet food industry community. We have a page on Facebook, which I believe is again, using the search for “petfood industry” and the same on Twitter.

Adrian Tennant: Excellent. Thank you very much indeed. It’s been a pleasure having you on Debbie, thank you so much for your time.

Debbie Philips-Donaldson: Thank you.

Adrian Tennant: Some of the things that stood out to me from the conversation with Debbie. Firstly we heard about the development of insect-based pet foods already available in Europe and possibly coming to the US soon. We learned about new formats in pet food packaging, especially the re-imagination of what’s possible with Tetra Paks. And high tech personalized diets for your pet based on DNA testing possibly here within five to 10 years. And finally what engages audiences the most? Controversy around pets and raw foods. Thank you to our guest this week, Debbie Phillips Donaldson, editor-in-chief of Petfood Industry magazine. You’ve been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced by Bigeye. If you have questions or comments about the content of today’s show or have ideas for topics that you’d like us to cover, please email us at info@bigeyeagency.com. You’ll also find a transcript of today’s show on our website at bigeyeagency.com under “Insights.” To make sure you never miss an episode, subscribe to IN CLEAR FOCUS on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, TuneIn, Stitcher, and other top podcast players. And if you like what you hear, please give us a rating. For IN CLEAR FOCUS, I’ve been your host, Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening and until next week, goodbye.

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Bigeye’s 2019 US Pet Industry Study

A new, national study of pet owners from Bigeye signals shifts in preferences and behaviors that are poised to reshape the $75 billion pet industry.

In July and August 2019, Bigeye conducted a survey of 784 pet owners aged 25 to 55 across the United States.

The study quantifies how pets influence purchases, devices, and brand appeal. Bigeye aimed to provided a valuable, free resource for organizations that provide or develop pet products and services with findings that are especially relevant to marketing professionals.

Bigeye President Justin Ramb, Senior Strategist Dana Cassell, and VP of Insights Adrian Tennant presented a webinar highlighting key findings and actionable insights from the study. You can watch the webinar recording below; a transcript of the webinar is provided.

Full Study Download

Download the full study results here.

Podcast

In Clear Focus: The 2019 US Pet Industry Study

In this first episode of In Clear Vision, Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell and VP of insights Adrian Tennant discuss findings from the 2019 US Pet Industry Study. Dana and Adrian break down emerging trends in pet parenting and the implications for pet product marketers as generational differences in device use impact engagement with advertisements.

Webinar Recording

Bigeye 2019 US Pet Industry Study Webinar

This is “Bigeye 2019 US Pet Industry Study Webinar” by Bigeye on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

Pet Transcript

Justin Ramb:        Hello everybody. This is Justin Ramb, president of Bigeye. I’d like to welcome you today to today’s webinar featuring highlights from the Bigeye 2019 US Pet Industry Study. We are excited to show you some great data this afternoon. And just so you know, there’s no need to take notes as a recording of this webinar will be available for on-demand access. We’ll send out a link to everyone who registered for today’s event within two to three business days. And we’d love to hear from you. We encourage participation and we’ll answer any questions you may have immediately following this presentation. Your lines are muted, so please feel free to send any questions or comments using the question box in the GoTo webinar panel or email us at info@bigeyeagency.com. Would love any feedback you have, comments, tips, insights that you have that you’d like to share, anything that you would like to give to the rest of the audience. So before we dive in, just a little bit of background about each of our presenters today. This is Justin Ramb, founder and president of Bigeye. We opened our doors in 2002 and are an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service marketing and advertising agency. We are based in sunny Orlando, Florida, but we serve clients across the US and beyond. Insights and research have become central to every engagement the agency undertakes for its clients often during the discovery phase, as well as supporting creative development. Insights really is our heartbeat; it is in the DNA of our agency, understanding the audience and how they’re best going to consume your products or services. I am a pet parent, my wonderful King Charles cavalier, Rosie. And now I’ll turn it over to Dana.

Dana Cassell:       Hi, I’m Dana Cassell, senior strategist at Bigeye. I’ve been with the agency for about a decade, and in my role, I focus on consumer behavior, interpreting the results and findings from primary and secondary research. I’m also responsible for synthesizing data into insights that help our clients build strategically differentiated brands. I’m also a pet parent. We have Kona who is a black lab that turned one this week and an 11-year-old orange Tabby cat named Baxter.

Adrian Tennant:     Hello, I’m Adrian Tennant, VP of insights, at Bigeye. I’ve spent more than two decades working in advertising and marketing in digital planning and strategy roles, but today I lead Bigeye’s quantitative, qualitative, and neuromarketing studies to inform media planning and creative strategies. I too am a pet parent. I have two four-year-old Maine Coon cats, Polly and Mango, plus a 29-gallon aquarium with various fish, including tetras, cories, and a pleco named Bob. To those of you just joining us, welcome.

Justin Ramb:        So why this research study and why now? In 1988, 56% of US households had one or more pets. Thirty-one years later, the percentage stands at 67% – that’s an 11% increase, which means today 85 million households in the US have pets and this year $75 billion will be spent on pet-related products and services. Bigeye works with clients in the pet care space, so we are committed to tracking trends in this market to help our clients develop breakthrough marketing and communication strategies. We decided to undertake this primary research study and the results we’re sharing with you today. Over to Adrian.

Adrian Tennant:     The objective of Bigeye’s 2019 US Pet Industry Study is to yield insights into the buying habits and attitudes of owners of domestic pets. We collected the data for this primary research in July and August of this year from a sample of 784 adults aged 25 to 55 located across the United States. For reporting purposes, we’ve grouped respondents into the four geographic regions shown here: the South; the West; the Midwest; and the Northeast. Unless noted otherwise, the results we’re sharing with you today have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5% at the 95% confidence level. Dana, over to you.

Dana Cassell:       Thanks, Adrian. So let’s get started by taking a look at pet ownership, which animals are most popular, and how ownership may be influenced by the environment. Most owners of pets have dogs and or cats. 75% of respondents in our study owned dogs, and 46% owned cats. Ownership of other animals are more modest with fish at 10 percent, birds at 6%, and small mammals at 4%. Because most families that own fish have more than one fish in that home, fish outnumber other domestic pets: estimated at 139 million in the United States as of 2018. Sixty-six percent of respondents in our study own one pet, while 25% have two pets, and 9% have more than two. Single pet ownership is most prevalent among respondents living in apartments, townhouses, and condos. Multiple pets are more likely among cat, bird, and fish owners living in single-family homes. Ninety-five percent of owners consider pets a member of their family; 12% of owners consider their pets probably a member of the family, while 83% consider their pets definitely a member of the family. Responses were consistent on this question from owners across regions, within different household income bands, and all age ranges. This really is illuminating about how we view our pets and how humanization influences pet products, services, and brand premiumization. So when is the best time to introduce a pet into a family? In a separate study undertaken within the research platform Suzy, Bigeye asked 503 mothers across the US how old a child should be when a pet is introduced into the home. In open-ended responses, which you can see here, 42% indicated ages two through seven, and 27% said ages seven through 11 years old. Where do we find our pets? Thirty-nine percent of pets are purchased: 21% from a breeder, 13% from stores, and 5% online. Thirty-six percent of pets are adopted, typically from a shelter. For 14% of respondents, family and friends were a source, and 7% reported taking in a stray. We noted that adoption is far more likely with respondents in the West, in the suburbs, and in two-person households. Seventy percent of pets were acquired with some pre consideration: higher percentages of women, people earning between $35,000 and $50,000 annually, people living in rural areas, and those who got their pet from a friend or relative tended to be more spontaneous than other segments.

Adrian Tennant:     Thanks, Dana. Let’s turn now to what we’re buying for our pets and where from. Pet owners purchase a variety of items on a regular basis. Treats and toys top the list: 73% of pet owners report buying treats, while 62% purchase toys. Fifty-four percent of owners purchased specialty food and 41% buy store brands. Further down the list are medicine and pet sundries, such as grooming supplies, bedding, accessories, apparel and training aids, close out the list of pet owners’ regular purchases. Spend is comparable across most segments. Overall, 76% of owners spend less than $100 per month on pet items; for 45% of owners, this adds up to between $600 and $1,200 per year, but 19% spend double that rate – up to $2,400 annually. Omnichannel retailers’ in-store purchases for pet-related products still outpace online. Individually, Walmart tops the list: 66% shopped for pet products there in the past year. PetSmart at 62%, Petco at 56%, and Chewy.com at 44%, top the list of pet-specific retailers. Owners in the West were more likely than those in other regions to purchase in-store at Petco, and much more likely to purchase from Costco or Sam’s Club. Owners located in the Northeast were much more likely than others to purchase from drug stores such as CVS, Walgreens, and Duane Reade. In addition to products, pet owners purchase services. At 36%, veterinary care tops the categories of pet services. Grooming is second-most popular at 24%. Pet sitter/feeder combined with walkers is at 14%, level with the combined categories of boarding and daycare. Close to half of all pet owners – 45 percent – give their pet vitamins or supplements. Twenty-five percent have insurance for their pet – 40 percent of owners with insurance said that a vet recommendation most influenced their decision to purchase. Twenty-three percent participate in medicine, vitamin, or supplement subscriptions. It’s worth noting that 86% of owners spend under $1,000 per year on medical care for their pets. Just over one-third of owners – 34% – participate in one or more pet-related subscription services. Among those owners that subscribe, 63 percent do so for food, while just over half – 52% – subscribe for toys and accessories. Forty-eight percent subscribe for health products or supplements and 35% for pet treats. For these services, a particular demographic pattern plays out: owners aged 25-34, living in a townhome or a condo, and in an urban area are more likely to subscribe than other groups. These findings held true across all four regions of the US. So with Halloween just around the corner, more than one-third of all pet owners (36%) at least sometimes purchase costumes for their pets. The practice is most widespread among owners aged 25-34, of 2 or more pets, dog owners, those living in apartments, townhomes, and condos, in urban areas. Female and male owners are equally likely to purchase costumes. Back to you, Dana.

Dana Cassell:       Thanks, Adrian. Cannabidiol – or CBD – is derived from hemp or cannabis, but is non-psychoactive, making it accessible to almost anyone, including pets. CBD has gone mainstream in record time and is considered a treatment for everything from anxiety to arthritis pain. But how willing are pet parents to ditch chew toys in favor of CBD-infused treats? The Bigeye study finds that CBD is currently administered by 17% of pet owners; 42% don’t currently use CBD-infused products but would consider doing so for their pet in the future; about a quarter – 24% – are holdouts, and 17 percent are unsure. Pet owners currently using CBD products are much more likely than non-users to have health insurance for their pets: 56% of those currently using CBD have insurance, compared with 25% of all owners. Pet owners see many potential uses for CBD. The dominant CBD indication is as an anxiety and stress reducer: 43 percent of users are currently administering CBD for that purpose and 37% of owners open to its use would use it for that. Sixteen percent of owners – users and non-users – use or would consider CBD to treat nausea, 15% for seizures, 13% for cancer symptoms, and 9% to treat gastrointestinal issues. Non-users are more likely than current users to consider CBD for alleviating cancer symptoms and gastrointestinal issues by 4 to 7 percentage points, respectively. The full report, which will be sent to everyone who registered for today’s webinar, includes a lot more about owners’ attitudes towards the use of CBD for their pets. A fascinating consumer trend. Back to you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant:     Thanks, Dana. So how do owners decide what to feed their pets, and what influences the trial of new products and services? When it comes to deciding what to feed their pets, 49 percent – almost half of all owners – said they look to recommendations from their veterinarian; 37 percent said advice from friends and family; one-third of respondents identified product reviews as strongly influencing their selection. When we asked what drives pet owners to try new products, 21% of owners selected coupon, sale, or discount. Coupons seem a bit anachronistic, but in the digital age they double as discount codes and consumers’ online research often includes checking for the availability of such codes. At 20% is the more attribute-based nutritional benefit. Next were reviews at 13% and friend recommendations at 12%. At 11%, samples work on the same premise as coupons. This chart shows the most influential factors in pet product decision factors, measured individually on a scale from zero to ten, to gauge their influence. The higher the average score, the greater the influence. In the upper-tier are direct health benefits offered as well as product quality in the form of longevity or durability. Value is a critical factor, meaning that the decision is about more than just price. And again, vet recommendations play an influential role Pet owners who subscribe learned about their subscription service through a variety of sources. One-third of subscribers learned about their service from a website, while 18% said an advertisement, and 14% said word of mouth. Which segues nicely with the final section of our study – back to you, Dana.

Dana Cassell:       Thanks, Adrian. As a marketing communications agency, we especially want to know pet owners interact with various ad formats and on what devices. Smartphones really are omnipresent: use of the device pervades every corner of our lives. For many, smartphones are the most available, convenient, and immediate point of access to information. So it is perhaps not surprising that in the Bigeye study, 38% of pet owners indicate the smartphone is their preferred device for engaging with advertisements. For 28% of pet owners, it’s the television, and for almost one-quarter, it’s a laptop or desktop computer. We do see some significant generational differences in device usage. The most notable variations are based on age: owners younger than 35 (47%) are most willing to engage with advertisements using their smartphones. Those 45 and older lean more toward TV (38%) than smartphones (26%). We also observe some variations based on the area. Although the smartphone dominates overall, pet owners in suburban areas were 12 percentage points (34%) less likely than owners in rural areas (46%) to engage with advertisements on their phones. TV is least likely to be engaged with by urban pet owners (23%) compared to those in suburban (31%) and rural areas (30%). Forty-one percent of pet owners selected TV commercials as their preferred format for advertisements. Combining Facebook (19%) and Instagram (11%) with influencers (4%), social media represents 34%. Video, the category considered emergent, hits 21% and consistency across different age groups confirms this trend. Pet owners aged 45-55 lean more toward TV ads while those younger than 35 favor social media and video-based ads. One thing is clear – video ads produced for display on smartphones are most likely to resonate with Millennial pet owners. We’ve not had time to cover everything in the report, but let’s take a minute to highlight some of the trendlines. Millennial pet owners are about half as likely to be married or living with a partner than previous generations and are also delaying parenthood. This generational difference has resulted in higher rates of pet ownership among this cohort and for some owners, pets have become a replacement for children. With a high percentage of younger pet owners living in apartments in urban and suburban areas, multi-family property developers should emphasize pet-friendly amenities and highlight nearby city parks or trails for dog walking in their marketing communications. Those aged 25-34 were most likely to state their pets had influenced where they live. Many pets are left alone for a large portion of the day and owner awareness of the stress this can cause is growing. In fact, for the owners in our study already using CBD products for their pets, as well as those that would be interested in doing so, the alleviation of anxiety is their primary reason for using CBD. While Gen X-ers and Millennials (Gen Y) are as likely as each other to access information via a smartphone the older generation is more likely to favor TV commercials to learn about pet products. But to reach younger owners, social media and online videos are key. Over to you, Adrian.

Adrian Tennant:     Thanks. In our study, 45% of owners reported spending between $600 and $1,200 annually on pet food, treats, medical care, and entertainment. And with almost 20% of owners spending up to $2,400 per year, it’s clear to see why the US market is worth $75 billion in 2019. We don’t want to jinx it, but the market looks pretty recession-proof based on these data points. With the increased humanization of pets comes the opportunity for direct-to-consumer (DTC) brands to provide pet-friendly versions of the products that their owners already use and enjoy themselves — everything from vitamins and nutritional supplements to Instagram-friendly costumes. Opportunities also exist for healthcare and medical device manufacturers, as activity trackers and wearables are becoming part of the day-to-day lives of a growing number of pets, making them as connected as their human owners. Smartphones support the monitoring of such devices within a tech ecosystem. Our study indicates pet owners are open to the convenience of subscription services, especially those in the 25-34 age group. Owners seek out pet food products that they perceive as having nutritional benefits — often at a price premium. Obesity is increasingly an issue for pets, and pet food formulations designed to maintain a healthy weight, as well as “all-natural” diets, hairball control, etc. reflect the breadth of consumer choice in the category. Now I’m going to hand back to you, Justin.

Justin Ramb:        Thanks, Adrian and Dana, we have just a few minutes left, so if you have any questions, please use the question box in the GoToWebinar on the side, or if you would like to email us at info@bigeyeagency.com. That would be great. We have received some questions during the webinar, so we’d like to take those right now. Beth asks, did you see any differences in the ways men and women respond to the survey? Dana, would you like to take this one?

Dana Cassell:       Sure. The short answer is that no we didn’t, we did not see a statistically significant difference in responses from men and women. While we did have a great cross-section in gender, but I want to tell you, I’m really interested in the overlap of our research in mom marketing and in pet industry marketing because we saw 95% of pet owners view their pets as a member of the family. So we are really interested in our findings about communicating with parents the way that they make purchasing decisions for their children and the parallels that might have in this industry.

Justin Ramb:        Great. Thanks, Dana. Our next question, Erik asks, could you expand on what differences you saw between generations and media channels? Adrian one for you to take.

Adrian Tennant:     Yes, thank you. So this is something we didn’t really highlight today, but generational preferences, definitely reflect differences in what drives owners to try new products. You know, the youngest cohort in our study, those between 25 and 34, surprisingly over-index for email. That was a surprise for us – as well as commercials. and social media. The next cohort, ages 35 to 44, over-index for recommendations from friends and family. That’s still the most influential group. While the oldest cohort in this study, those aged 45 to 55, significantly over-index for coupons or discounts and were the most likely to be interested in nutritional benefits.

Justin Ramb:        Great. Thank you. Adrian. Next question from Peter, is there a difference between the money amount spent on pets based on geography?

Dana Cassell:       Well, we did see that owners the South are the most generous pet owners and their average I think is about $200 a month, which you might remember is about double what the majority of the respondents in our study say. So yeah, in the South we saw a bit more generosity among owners toward their pets.

Justin Ramb:        Thanks, Dana. Ryan asks for pet owners with pet insurance, was there a variance by age of pet parents?

Adrian Tennant:     Yes, there was, and guess what everybody? It was the younger owners that were most likely to have pet insurance, which again surprised us. We thought it would be the older parents, but no. Those young ones really are most committed as pet parents in every respect. They were definitely the ones most likely to buy health insurance.

Justin Ramb:        Linda, thank you. Your question, your question is does your study address the frequency of purchases by category specifically related to the slide that included the pet products purchased frequently?

Adrian Tennant:     Yes, so I can take that one. So when we looked at the purchase of food, we did see some differences in frequency. Folks with large mammals – we’re thinking typically for this study that was horses – were the least likely to buy food on a regular basis, whereas the owners of reptiles and amphibians, were more likely to be purchasing food on a weekly basis. And we assumed that that was because that’s live food in many cases. For the vast majority of folks, it was definitely every few weeks to monthly. I hope that answers the question.

Justin Ramb:        Great. Let’s see here. Jason asked, “you reported pet insurance adoption at around 25%. That sounds very high. I’ve typically seen estimates for US pet health insurance penetration closer to 2%. What am I missing?”

Adrian Tennant:     I think that is a great question. We can only report how 784 respondents responded to the survey. I agree that seems like quite a big variance. Obviously, all of our folks were pet parents and I guess prepared to answer a survey about being pet parents and their purchase behaviors. I don’t know how to attribute that difference.

Justin Ramb:        Great. Any other questions? I will touch on this. Catherine, you asked, “will we be able to get a copy of the report after this webinar?” Absolutely. Right after this call, everybody that registered for the webinar will receive a link to download the report. It is a wonderful report – it unpacks a lot of what has been covered with a lot of insights from our team on what we discovered through the data. So, absolutely you’ll get a copy of that report. I really do hope everybody enjoyed the information we shared today. We are excited to release the report. This afternoon we’ll also be doing a podcast with the team to discuss the results in more detail. We will be sending out an email with a link to the podcast once that goes up. And if you have any questions that we didn’t get to or you think about after, or after you receive the report and would like some more information, please email us info@bigeyeagency.com and we’ll make sure we address them in a podcast or follow up with you individually. We’ll also include details of the podcast and the webinar recording – all of that will be sent to you as well. So finally, on behalf of Dana, Adrian, and myself and the entire Bigeye team, we thank you for attending today’s webinar. Have a great afternoon.

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The Latest and Greatest from the Global Pet Expo

The 2019 Global Pet Expo shined a light on some of the most interesting trends in pet ownership and pet care marketing. Here’s what we learned.

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of pets, the Global Pet Expo is a required stop. Much as the famed CES shines a spotlight on the latest consumer electronics offerings, this expo offers a window into the newest trends and products within the pet industry. If you’re in the pet business — or the pet care marketing business — it’s a vitally important date on the calendar.

So what did we learn from this year’s “petpreneur” extravaganza? Let’s take a look at the latest products and trends about to capture the imagination of pet lovers everywhere.

What pet owners will be buying this year and beyond

The Global Pet Expo offers an early look at innovative new pet industry products, and this year was no exception. The multi-day expo featured hundreds of new products designed to address lingering problems within the pet care market.

Those products included:

  • Leashes that attach to bicycles, allowing dog owners to “walk” their pets while cycling.
  • Portable water bottles custom designed for a dog’s mouth that offer easy drinking during walks and hikes.
  • Licking pads. These pads can be smeared with peanut butter or any other sticky substance and then used to divert a pet while nails are being trimmed or paws cleaned — a boon for anyone who has ever struggled with a pet who hates nail trimming.
  • Recyclable and compostable bags for cleaning up doggy messes.
  • Crash tested car carriers and harnesses (these operate much like a child safety seat).
  • Tick removal devices that function much more effectively than simple tweezers.
  • Catnip-infused crayons.
  • Neon colored kitty litter.
  • Backpacks designed for portable cat carrying.

Product displays are always a good barometer of what’s happening in the pet sector, both in terms of consumer offerings and overall trends.

Let’s take a closer look at the pet industry developments shaping 2019 and beyond.

What pet owners will see more of in the coming years

If you want to predict the future of pet care, simply counting booth types inside the Global Pet Expo offers a rough — but fairly accurate — yardstick. As you might expect, at this year’s event pet-focused CBD offerings were thick on the ground, as were boutique/specialty food and treat purveyors.

Additionally, the American Pet Products Association (the sponsor organization of the Global Pet Expo) compiled new research examining emerging trends within the pet industry. Among the most prominent trends cited are:

  • Direct to consumer subscription boxes for pet owners.
  • Pet food composed of human-grade ingredients.
  • Ethically sourced and non-GMO pet food.
  • More pets being kept in the classroom. This trend, which allows teachers to keep small pets for students, is being supported by grant money and charitable donations.
  • Continued expansion of the backyard chicken movement. This practice is more widespread than many realize. According to U.S. Census data, 1% of homes raise backyard chickens and an additional 4% plan to begin doing so within four years.

By understanding the role new products and trends play within the industry, brands can perform more accurate audience analysis and create deeply compelling marketing messages for today’s pet owners.

Partnering with the right pet care marketing agency

If you want to get the most out of your pet care marketing, you need to stay current with evolving industry trends. You also need inspiring creative work, deep sector expertise and advanced technological tools.

At BIGEYE, we can help you connect with your ideal market. We can also help with package design, branding, TV production  and the entire full service marketing stack.

Reach out to us today to learn more about what the right pet care marketing agency can do for you. 

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The Numbers Every Pet Marketer Must Know

Pet food marketing requires more than creativity – you need hard data to inform an audience analysis. Here’s what the stats say about pet marketing in 2019.

If you want to sell pet products, you need to know your audience on a fundamental level. That requires hard data — the raw material that facilitates proper audience segmentation. Without it, your pet food marketing campaigns will be scattershot, poorly targeted and irrelevant to most of the people you reach.

Fortunately, we’ve collected the data and consumer insights you need to connect with the right pet-owning audience.

The pet-owning audience, by the numbers

Audience research can provide us with critical insight. It tells us who pet owners are, how they spend their money and the hobbies, interests and priorities that drive them. Armed with this data, it becomes possible to create finely targeted pet food marketing campaigns that resonate with buyers and spur them into action.

This market data can be broken down into three primary categories: Commercial data, demographic data and personal interest data.

Let’s take a closer look at all three, beginning with commercial data.

What commercial pet owner data tells us

Examining how pet owners spend their money gives us clear insight into buyer motivation. Unlike with consumers surveys or interviews, there is little open to interpretation here. These are quantifiable numbers, which makes them highly reliable.

Consider the following:

84.6% of pet owners in the U.S. are searching for products or services they want to buy.

93.1% of pet owners in the U.S. are visiting online retail sites such as Amazon.

60.1% of pet owners in the U.S. are the main shoppers in their households.

81.9% of pet owners in the U.S. are always looking for the best deals for products they want to buy.

Additionally, free delivery, coupons, and discounts increase the likelihood of U.S. pet owners buying a product online; followed next by reviews from other consumers.

Pet owners in the U.S. typically discover new brands and products through TV ads and word-of-mouth recommendations. Search engine recommendations and online ads are next in order of importance.

What demographic pet owner data tells us

Demographic information also plays a critical role in audience analysis by illuminating who owns pets, the kinds of pets they own and their financial attributes.

For example:

U.S. pet owners are 51.2% female; 48.8% male.

49% of U.S. pet owners are married; the slight majority are childless.

Household incomes of pet owners are in the mid-50th percentile.

Dogs are the most common pet (71.8%), followed by cats (49.6%).

What personal hobby and interest pet owner data tells us

By evaluating how pet owners spend their time and gauging their hobbies and interests, it’s possible to create tailored pet food marketing messages designed to resonate with audiences. Package design, product naming and other creative processes are more informed by analyzing this kind of data.

Hobby and interest data shows us the following about today’s pet owners:55.4% of pet owners are interested in wildlife/nature; camping and hiking are their next greatest interests (47%) followed by technology (46.6%).

FOX, CNN, ESPN, Food Network, History Channel and HGTV are the most-watched networks by pet owners.

U.S. pet owners report being fans of the NFL (55.5%), baseball (42.9%), basketball (40.1%), soccer (38.5%) and hockey (25.6%).

Pet owners in the U.S. are most likely to participate in the following sports and activities: swimming, exercise classes such as yoga and spinning, basketball, soccer, and golf.

U.S. pet owners enjoy cooking, food & drinks, traveling, DIY and home improvement and gardening more than the average person (and, of course, pets and pet care).

Choosing the right pet food marketing firm

A great marketing agency uses all tools at its disposal: Hard research data, engaging creative work, deeply informed audience analysis and sophisticated technology. At BIGEYE, we have the tool suite to help you create the kind of compelling pet food marketing campaign that truly moves the needle.

Contact us today to learn more about pet food package design, logo design, SEO, TV production, and other services.

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Pet Food Marketing: Why Millennials Shouldn’t Be The Sole Focus

Millennials are a natural audience for pet food marketing — but they shouldn’t be your sole focus. Let’s find out why casting a wider net is the smarter play.

We get it — millennials are the cat’s pajamas. They represent a huge generation with a lot of buying power. Thousands of bloggers have written millions of think pieces examining why millennials are such a critical audience. And — even better — they’re huge pet lovers. So why are we going to tell you to cast your gaze elsewhere when creating your next pet food marketing campaign?

Let’s find out.

Why millennials should not be your sole marketing focus

Millennials are the largest generation in the U.S. They own pets at a higher rate than Baby Boomers. Millennials treat their pets as proxy children, showering them with attention and expensive products.

A pet food marketing practitioner’s dream, right?

Sure — but that dream can quickly turn nightmarish if you develop tunnel vision. Millennials may check all the boxes in terms of a pet marketing audience, but let’s consider a few other facts:

  • 65% of pet owners in the U.S. are not millennials.
  • The average millennial has a net worth of just $8,000.
  • The median net worth for Baby Boomers is $360,000.
  • Gen X has a median annual income that’s 250% higher than millennials.
  • Baby Boomers spend $548 billion on products annually, $200 million more than Gen X, the next closest cohort.
  • Baby Boomers are responsible for 70%  of all disposable income in the US.

Millennials aren’t looking quite so dreamy now, are they? They love animals — there’s no doubt about that. Yet they pale in comparison to older buyers in terms of raw spending power. Though they haven’t been the subject of countless marketing think pieces, older Americans still control consumer spending in almost every category, including pets.

That’s the financial case for diversifying your marketing approach.

Yet there’s also a cultural case — and it runs in the opposite direction.

Don’t overlook Gen Z…and tailor your messages to the appropriate market

The same financial arguments that apply to Millennials apply doubly to Gen Z, whose vanguard are just now reaching their early 20s. Yet brands would be foolish to overlook them: They are another massive cohort with equally massive devotion to their pets. Gen Z pet ownership numbers are expected to eventually exceed those of millennials, who are already the top generation in terms of ownership percentage.

Fortunately, there is lots of overlap between the two groups in terms of how they view pets. Both humanize their animals and both are willing to pay more to furnish them with the best products and experiences.

However, there are some differences as well. Gen Z members are more skeptical in terms of branding messages and less likely to believe claims that products are special because they are organic or all natural. They tend to dislike overly curated branding and favor a more direct and unmediated approach, and this particularly applies to brand identity.

Brands engaged in pet food marketing should also consider the desires and priorities of older buyers. Baby Boomers preceded the pet humanization trend; as such, they are more likely to have conventional notions about pet food and pet care.

Older buyers are also receptive to marketing messages that emphasize how pet products will help make their own lives easier. The demands of keeping a pet are often much harder on older consumers, so it’s important that brands consider that angle of the pet ownership experience when marketing products.

Finding the right pet marketing agency

A smart, forward-thinking marketing agency understands the value of audience analysis. If you’re pitching to one segment to the exclusion of another, you’re hurting your bottom line.

At BIGEYE, we can help you create a comprehensive pet food marketing campaign that speaks to all audiences.  

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