5 Ways to Effectively Market to Pet Owners and Build a Strong Pet Care Brand
Most people with a pet care business struggle when it comes to effectively targeting and marketing to pet owners. This article will give you some best practices.
The pet care industry is explosive. At the moment, and in the U.S. alone, it is estimated to be worth over $55 billion over the course of 2020.
But who is fueling this growth?
As it turns out, pets are extremely popular among millennials, young professionals who are deferring marriage and childbearing. With more free time and more free income, this demographic is spending a large portion of their leisure income on their furry friends.
Here is a quick breakdown of some of the major annual expenses pet owners currently have (read: growth opportunities in the pet care industry):
- Surgical veterinary visits: $474 (dogs); $245 (cats)
- Routine vet visits: $257 (dogs); $182 (cats)
- Kennel boarding: $322 (dogs); $164 (cats)
- Food: $235 (dogs + cats)
- Grooming: $84 (dogs); $30 (cats)
But millennials aren’t the only ones with pets. According to the National Pet Owner’s Survey, 67% of U.S. households currently have a pet. Regardless of who the pet owner or ‘parent’ for that matter is, pets are increasingly viewed as an integral part of the family unit - which is great news for pet care focused businesses!
Why, you ask?
Because pet owners are willing to spend more money on their pets. They only want:
- The best organic food
- The most luxurious pet hotels
- The chicest haircuts
On the flip side of the equation, pet owners are strapped for time and crave convenience - as with any ‘human’ product or service. This is creating an on-demand pet culture as well as a growing need for ‘pet tech’ in order to keep in touch with and occupy pets while owners are at work. Dog TV and Spotify for pets have captured this need spot-on.
Now take a second and think carefully:
What are you currently doing to capture your fair share of the pet care market?
Here are 5 things you can do in order to build a strong pet care brand and effectively market your wares and services to pet parents:
#1: Identify your target audience - Before you can even think about marketing your pet care products or services you need to first identify your target audience. Ask yourself: ‘Am I marketing to:
- A single, high-income millennial in finance who lives in a densely populated city with a small dog?
- A middle-income family with four children that lives in the suburbs, has a large house and dog as well as many other expenses besides their pet?
- A retired widow with 10 goldfish and a parakeet who is living off of social security, and also loves art and street food?’
Meredith Hill got it right when she said:
“When you speak to everyone, you speak to no one”.
Marketing needs to be targeted and tailored. You need to deeply understand your audiences:
- What motivates them?
- What disposable income do they have?
- What are their living circumstances (cramped apartment vs. spacious suburban house) and how does that affect their pets’ needs?
- When are they active on social media?
- What kind of language or offering will push them to take a desired action?
The answers to these questions need to influence every market decision you make, from tactics to the actual look and feel of your ads. As you continue reading, view every suggestion through the prism of your target audience, and consider what is right for them. Novarize provides you with a tool that allows you to pinpoint and gain insights into new target audiences so that you can actually run more effective marketing campaigns.
#2: Cross-pollinate - Consider collaborating with other companies or professionals. Identify other pet care professionals and service providers in your area such as vets, dog walkers, and dog hotels. You can both expand your current audiences by capitalizing on each other’s clientele. For example, your vet can display ads for your product, say dog food, on their website, and in exchange you can display an ad for their veterinary services on yours. You can take this one step further by offering a coupon or exclusive discount for each other’s customers, hang up flyers in each other’s offices/store or even start a pet collaborative. This can happen when a group of pet care providers band together and cross-promote each other. For example, a vet, a pet food store, a pet groomer, and dog walking service can band together and create a full-service dog membership. A customer can pay a flat monthly rate and receive all the services he or she needs from the collective.
Other marketing collabs may be based on industries where purchase decisions are very ‘pet heavy’. The American car market is a great example, as 16% of Americans buy cars with their pets in mind. That is why so many car companies use pets in their car commercials as was the case with the 2013 Toyota Rav4 Super Bowl commercial:
Find an industry with a pet care cross-roads (dry cleaning? fitness?) and start sending out marketing collaboration requests.
#3: Utilize influencers - Another great way to promote your pet care business is by finding an influencer who can also evolve into a brand ambassador and represents your brand on a regular basis. Once you have found your audience you can discern what type of influencer you need in order to effectively ‘convince’ a potential lead to make a positive purchase decision or in order to increase brand awareness.
- If you are targeting millennials, for example, you may want to find an Instagram influencer. Meet Manny the Frenchie who has 1.1 million followers on Instagram, 7,600 YouTube channel subscribers, and 1.7 million Facebook fans. Manny the French Bulldog who has a reputation for falling asleep mid photoshoot has starred in Converse, PetSmart, and even American Apparel commercials.
- If you are targeting ‘older’ audiences, say 30+, they may be more inclined to make purchase decisions based on blogs they read before completing a transaction. Reach out to industry bloggers and try and get them interested in what you are selling either by giving them an exclusive on your story or by paying them for coverage. Here is a list of 100 of the top blogs for pet owners and lovers. Write an engaging blog post and try submitting it to one blog at a time, or write several blog posts and submit them to multiple blogs for review. Just be sure that your blog doesn’t get posted twice - duplicate content is a recipe for getting banned from a blog and is an all-around bad SEO practice.
Whatever channel you choose to deploy influencers on, just remember to not use pets as a gimmick rather make them the centerpiece of your branding efforts. A great example is Subaru’s commercial, in which a family of dogs ironically dubbed the ‘Barkleys’ visit a hot dog stand in their Subaru Crosstrek:
And, of course, use social media. Find a pet ambassador/ pet influencer and use them as your mascot on Instagram and Facebook.
#4: Leverage human-pet activities - Dogs in particular and pets, in general, are man’s best friend. People enjoy doing joint activities with their pets and pet care businesses should capitalize on that. Many companies are embracing this tendency not only from a marketing perspective but as the entire essence of their brand’s identity. A great example of this is Ruffwear who understands how much pet parents enjoy doing outdoor activities like jogging and hiking with their pet children. It follows that their Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is building dog gear that enhances and inspires joint canine-human outdoor adventures and explorations.
Another activity which many humans love and until recently were unable to share with their pets is drinking beer. Dawg Grog identified the market potential for such a product and utilized the human-animal bond as a key force in their branding and marketing campaigns.
Side note: Dawg Grog, though prohibitively overpriced (it’ll set your pooch back a cool $36) is made of soaked barely and is not alcoholic. No need to be alarmed - there won’t be any drunk basset hounds roaming free.
Before launching or marketing a new product or brand think about how humans and animals interact, and use these insights to enhance your resonance with potential clients.
#5: Make your business animal-centric - The two main ways in which you can shift the focus to animals are:
- Identifying your brand with an animal cause - Choose a cause which you think is worthy, such as pet rescue or pet shelters, and start donating and or volunteering there. You can use images from your volunteering sessions in advertising campaigns, and even donate a certain percentage of your revenue to that cause. To preemptively address cynicism, leveraging a good deed is not inherently wrong — especially if you are actually doing the volunteering and donating the dollars to your cause of choice.
APA in itself is an adoption center for animals so it would follow that they use animals in their advertising camapigns. This is here as pure humorous inspiration for your own pet-centric campaign.
- Offering services that go above and beyond - Offer a service that will set your business apart and provide real value for pets and their owners. Take your cue from Ikea Germany who is offering pet daycare so pet parents can shop in peace,
or from Air Alaska who is offering a pet safety guarantee. An easy campaign I have seen recently is the placement of branded water trays at local restaurants and shops. Pets stop for a drink along with their owners, who are more likely to notice your brand as well as make a purchase from the store in question.
Summing it up
Whatever it is that you are selling in the pet care industry, and however you chose to market your business, remember this: pets are more than pets to most people — they are family members! When you really understand this, the way in which you approach marketing will shift in tandem. Another central point to remember is who you are marketing your pet products to. Back in 2008, Rudy Giuliani had a point when he said
‘hope is not a strategy’.
However, gaining actionable insights into audiences specifically interested in pet care products and services is!
Try Novarize today to find your customers of tomorrow!
Please comment below and share your pet care business marketing tactics with your fellow marketers!