By Robert Wheatley//May 5, 2023//
By: Robert Wheatley//May 5, 2023//
All too often, pet brand marketing strategies fall on time-worn recitations of high-quality, human-grade food ingredients as expressed in percentages of protein and claims of nutritional superiority. What’s missing from this picture is what we know about how pet parents operate on the path to purchase. Analytical arguments fail to overcome the elaborate web of human “risk aversion” behaviors. Trying anything new is a big hill to climb. Habit reigns supreme because it comfortably maintains the status quo.
There is, however, an effective formula that if followed will lead pet brand marketing out of the wilderness of “sameness” and engagement disconnects and into the promised land of relevance and resonance.
It is a three-legged strategic stool that sits solidly on the bedrock of behavioral psychology, neuroscience and what we know about the human decision-making journey. If you elect to consider these principles in strategic planning, it is likely – if leaning into radical differentiation of how your brand is packaged and presented – you will experience a significant jump in marketing effectiveness per dollar invested.
These strategic concepts comprise the alchemy of pet brand marketing best practices – and a path to business growth – for the very reason they offer the greatest opportunity to connect with and influence how people feel when they are in the presence of your brand. Yes, that’s right – how they feel because the emotional construct in this formula is where the effectiveness rubber meets the impact road. Remarkably, humans are feeling creatures who think and not thinking creatures who feel.
Part 1 – Education
The word education has a second more subtle meaning attached to it, though the actual activity is about helping people deepen their understanding. This is quite different than brand self-promotion, asserting claims focused on product benefits. Education is information offered in a frame of “usefulness” designed to lift the audience’s knowledge about what contributes to the livelihood, health and wellbeing of our beloved furry family members.
Pet care guidance in the form of education is best when presented holistically as a path to a higher quality life paved not only with better nutrition but also with the right set of exercise, healthcare, play and emotional support that characterizes optimal pet care practices. Your brand’s job is to operate as coach, guide and enabler of the pet-centric lifestyle customers have elected to pursue. It’s always help over hype.
Part 2 – Validation
Trust is at the core of all pet brand/consumer relationships. Cultivating trust is essential to establishing any chance of consumer acceptance and belief in your brand or product. Trust, however, is earned not claimed.
This raises questions: what can brands do to create an environment of trust; and what is the role of communication in this process?
The strategic principle of trust relies heavily on a burden of proof and inherent credibility of the voices involved in bringing validation forward. Employing outside, independent third-party experts engaged in the education effort works to help verify what we want pet parents to believe about commitments, standards and the efficacy of your approach to food creation. What drives effectiveness is who is saying it. Third parties carry more horsepower than the claims and assertions made by brands themselves.
Part 3 – Emotion
Perhaps the most important and powerful component of pet brand communication is the artful, creative use of emotion. Behavioral research confirms the role of a person’s subconscious mind in acting like decisions to buy. The incredible processing power of the subconscious – far beyond the learning mind’s capacity to calculate – informs the decisions we make.
What marketing tool impacts the sub-conscious side of the brain? Emotion – the positive feelings you generate about your brand. Pet care is a trove of emotional impulses between pet parents and their pets. It is the celebration of that relationship, the emotional bonds, the endearing love and devotion that form the grist of impactful (emotional) communication.
Integration forms the recipe for brand success
The proper balance of education, validation and emotion is key to building the most powerful forms of pet brand communication and marketing support. When these elements are in harmony, you acquire the ability to leap over the elaborate risk and habit barriers people erect to avoid their most innate fears: of the unproven and the fear of making a bad decision.
Remarkably when you blend an understanding of how people operate with creativity and devotion to best practice principles, you can rest assured marketing investments are no longer founded on “hope” of a good outcome.
Entering the promised land of effective, business-building marketing is made possible by blending education, validation and emotion-based tactics. This approach influences consumer perceptions, removes uncertainty and builds trust – the keys to gaining consumer acceptance and takeaway.
Robert Wheatley is the CEO of Chicago-based Emergent, The Healthy Living Agency. Emergent can help pet brands erase ineffective self-promotion and replace it with clarity and deeper meaning in their pet parent relationships and brand communication.