Culture Shift: Changing Consumer Attitudes Prompt Pet Food Marketing Refocus

By Robert Wheatley//March 1, 2024//

Culture Shift: Changing Consumer Attitudes Prompt Pet Food Marketing Refocus

By: Robert Wheatley//March 1, 2024//

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Ever since premiumization of the pet food industry gained traction, pet brands have largely focused brand narratives on the use of higher quality ingredients with a nod here and there to elevated sourcing standards that add a measure of credibility to better protein claims.  

Afterall, people want to feed their furry family members the best nutrition they can afford. We also know that the pet industry is in many ways a mirror of human food trends and priorities. We’re standing now at the edge of a culture shift brought on by the atmospheric conditions people are living with. Escalating climate impacts, COVID redux, economic upheaval, political chaos, wars and other forms of disruption have taken their toll, making people feel uneasy and uncertain. 

What is it that consumers want more than anything else? Certainty. 

Consumer response to these conditions is to look for ways to reassert a sense “self-actualized” control over their own lives. This breeds culture changes that represent a wider reshuffling of priorities and preferences for people — influencing their decisions and brand preferences. We are witnessing an important shift now that has relevance to pet brand marketing. 

In efforts to acquire greater control over their lives, people are being more intentional about managing their health and wellbeing. This includes their relationship to what they eat, how they exercise and where they invest time outside of work. This all centers on a core desire to take control of their health and long-term quality of life.  


  • The sea change is also related to aging impacts and a belief that better nutrition, better habits with respect to how we live, contributes to slowing or even reversing the aging process — all while insulating us from deficits in health and wellbeing.  


Insight to pet brand marketing strategies 

This development begins to push the current spotlight on improved, higher quality ingredients and processes. Moving the messaging priority from enhanced nutrition density manifested through the pet diet product creation story, and on to the business end of what all that means — creating outcomes from improved pet health and wellbeing.  

Said another way, it is the investments people make for themselves and their pets in better nutrition and exercise that ultimately help prevent health problems or aging related declines from occurring. Call it a form of insurance. In practical terms this means what you do now to improve dietary intake and maintain a healthy lifestyle pays dividends to avoid health issues.  


  • Interesting to note, Mintel research reports that identifying potential improvements to pet health is the number one reason for switching pet food brands. This is what consumers are seeking. 


The benefits of investing in better nutrition: healthier and happier over time 

This insight comes full circle to what we’ve shared previously about the importance of emotion to influence consumer behavior on the path to purchase. Healthy lifestyle narratives that demonstrate the outcomes of prevention are more important than analytical data about the delivery of higher levels of key nutrients in a pet diet. 

It is the lifestyle integration for pet parents with their furry family members, the smart moves to seek out higher quality nutrition, that leads to a better quality of life for all — both now and in the future. These stories are best told through the voices of pet parents themselves, providing evidence of improvements in pet health and wellbeing in the same way they facilitate taking better care of themselves. 


Guidance: a new approach to social media integration 

In tactical terms, these strategic changes place a greater premium on optimal social channel strategies. This is a environment for brand advocate and evangelist community engagement. For a long time, social platforms were managed as broadcast networks, emphasizing paid social at scale and employing high-quality branded content in the form of slick promo videos and TV ad cutdowns for social channel consumption. 

However social strategy is evolving. In parallel with consumer behavior changes is emergence of the creator economy – call it influencer involvement at a grass roots level. This comes with a heavy lean towards more authentic, user generated (lo-fi if you will) content and storytelling. This development also favors longer-form video.  

Measurement in social will also move with this change back to qualitative forms of engagement evidenced in repeat views, shares and meaningful interactions with content that is unscripted, unpolished and less predictable. Important to note that nearly 59% on time on social is spent watching videos.  


  • For brands this means the development of longer form tutorials that are less ad-like and more focused on education topics.  


Isn’t it about time that the world comes full circle to appreciate the benefits and outcomes of your investments in creating better diets? Your brand can help play a key role as enabler of an improved quality of life for pets, while their owners do the same. 


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.