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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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