Rory Sutherland, vice chairman of my former employer Ogilvy & Mather, summed it up in his precedent-setting book on the subject, Alchemy: Our purchase behaviors are 100 percent driven by trying to avoid making a bad decision.
As Sutherland accurately describes, “a one percent chance of nightmare dwarfs a 99 percent chance of a five percent gain.”
More than a few pet-brand minders believe marketing effectiveness is achieved by providing logical, fact-based evidence and assertions trumpeting why their pet food is the best choice. It is, after all, a convenient way for brands to answer the magnetic internal desire to self-promote new innovations and ingredient technologies. Yet again, behavioral psychology steps in to deny those assumptions for the very reason people are just not wired as analytical, fact-driven decision-making beings.
Take note, we live in an uncertain world. At any given time, there is limited trustworthy information available to pet parents. Yet consumers crave the illusion of certainty and are drawn to signals of honest intent. This works effectively because it perceptively lowers the chance of a purchase decision being wrong.
Consumer trust knocks at the front door of business growth for pet brands and retailer engagement. Without trust, consumers continue their journey searching for brands they believe and believe in, while ignoring the self-serving forms of traditional marketing speak that’s arrayed in front of them. Yet pet brands and retailers continue to talk “at” their customer audiences, attempting to persuade with claims of higher-quality ingredients and recipes.
For more than a decade now, trust in company brand messaging has declined as consumers migrate to other sources for credible testimony about which pet products to buy. Friends, family, other pet owners are vital endorsements on the path to purchase.
Social proof and user-generated content are the twin social media strategies that work to remove risk and replace it with believable evidence of performance and satisfaction. This is why social channel strategy and encouraging user-generated content is so vital on the path to risk abatement and trust creation. The honest, unscripted accounts of experiences and outcomes from real people are testament to what you want others to believe about the benefits of your pet food or shopping your store.
Testimonials are like gold. People will believe other people before they will ascribe credibility and truth to statements made by brands and businesses. It is important to encourage conversation, interaction, feedback and discourse from social community participants. You can do this by inviting it and asking questions.
You already know people adore their pets and will jump at opportunities to talk about their personal and anecdotal stories around lifestyle experiences, recovery from illnesses, behavior training tips and ideas, and opportunities to share photos and videos of their four-legged family members.
Anya Tucker, owner of The K9 Shop in Massapequa and Bohemia, New York, is a firm believer: “In our experience, the most effective tools are sharing positive stories and photos from customers that love what the food and our nutritional advice has done for their pets. By posting photos of our customers’ pets in our shop, and reposting our customers stories, we have created a sense of community and loyalty that pet parents want to be part of. Our social media campaigns and promotional boosting have been critical in growing our audiences and sharing our informative posts.”
In fact, the most powerful asset you can deploy is social proof – content created by your community that serves to verify and validate what you want people to believe about product benefits, shopping experiences or the pet lifestyle you advocate.
Consumer culture has changed as a result of COVID 19. It has altered preferences and mindsets. Here are some points to consider in social content creation.
- An empathetic and more human voice is essential in the content you publish.
- As a general subject platform, pet and owner health and wellness remains the top concern and thus relevant to the material you build or solicit from your community.
- People feel out of control of the world around them. Provide guidance and ideas that help them regain a sense of control. Taking charge of pet health and wellness is how to do it.
- Loss of confidence is a thing. Anything you can do to reassure people about the future and give them confidence about improvements on the road ahead will be welcomed.
- Your pet brand should be guided by a higher purpose (a mission that transcends commerce and selling things), deeper meaning and shared values with your consumer. They are paying closer attention to your words and actions.
According to a recent report from Co-Schedule, brands that publish 16 or more social posts a month got almost 3.5 times more traffic and 4.5 times more leads than businesses that publish less often. Further, the use of video is important as a business-generating medium – with 64 percent of viewers more likely to buy a product online after viewing.
The social media strategy goal for your pet or retail brand messaging is to humanize itself, mirroring the very best qualities people look for in those they implicitly trust including empathy, care and truthfulness. Optimizing your social platform strategy will be the best decision you make all year.
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.