What defines the gap between marketing base hit results versus a clear grand slam home run? More specifically, what causes one pet care marketing effort to resonate strongly with its intended audience while another is ignored or stalls out?
In today’s digitally driven marketplace, pet parents are incredibly savvy users of media to navigate the content they want while ignoring or blocking everything else. You might agree any investment in pet marketing will require the attention and participation of its intended audience. Consumer research tells us people are inspired by their beliefs and desires; pet care is first and foremost an emotionally driven category.
The humanization of pet food marketing, much like the dynamic of humanizing our pet parent relationships, is key to informing improved marketing strategies. It follows, leveraging this insight leads to stronger engagement and traction for pet food brand marketing investments.
We know from behavioral research there are common cues and conditions that cause people to engage, listen and to act. If properly considered in the design of marketing strategies, outreach tactics and experiences, we can stack the odds in favor of a genuine relationship unfolding between consumers and your brand.
In the age of consumer control, there are three core ingredients that fuel pet care brand growth. They are genuine connection, relationship and trust. Six strategies serve these core ingredients by paying homage to how consumers behave on the path to purchase:
Social Proof: People are drawn to products that other people like and endorse. This is the main component of optimizing the value and outcomes of social media strategy. Reviews are one of the most powerful assets a brand can deploy. Further, the extent to which people perceive a brand is gaining in popularity performs another form of validation – credible proof that it’s effective, safe and correctly represented.
Exposure effect: Repeated exposure to pet care brand communication breeds familiarity and helps set a path toward securing trust – the primary component of the consumer/brand relationship. Short term “promotion period” marketing investments are far less effective than those delivering a steady, consistent drumbeat of communication across multiple digital, social and retail channels. Messaging and content that’s useful and valuable to the consumer and their human-to-pet bond will engage, while self-promotional, product-centric selling will only cause the audience to tune out.
Reciprocity: The lynchpin to successful engagement begins with putting the consumers’ lifestyle interests and needs at the center of outreach strategies. The more you do to help pet parents and service their pet-centric lifestyle, the more likely they are to reciprocate. Additionally, behavioral studies have shown that when generous acts, unexpected gifts and unique offers are made, it triggers a natural, almost immediate reaction to return the favor.
Values alignment: Truth is, we are drawn to brands and people who are like ourselves – those who share our values, interests and beliefs. This insight helps foster deeper connection and affinity. Thus, it is mission critical to actively study the lifestyle needs, wants, desires and concerns of core customers. In media terms, social channel community-building is essential to create a forum for like-minded pet owners to share their stories and co-create content.
Humanization: People connect with people, not organizations. Video is a great tool for this marketing need. Bring to life “the real people” stories of founders, pet nutrition experts, ingredient suppliers, cause partners and other humans involved in what you do. Does the leadership team have a presence on your website? Do managers across the organization have a voice and the opportunity to publish in your content marketing programs? Have you told the stories of your ingredient suppliers – all the way back to the farm or fishery?
Help over hype: It may sound counterintuitive, but the path to marketing success is paved not by making your products the sole hero of your stories, but rather the pet parents you wish to reach. It is how we help enable their interests and wishes that we gain their trust and involvement. Providing useful and helpful content is the secret to engagement – and to the active sharing of the content you create.
Pet parents are sponges, looking for information on behavior, health, recreation and dietary needs along the continuum of their pets’ journey from puppy to senior. Genuinely useful material and guidance, packaged in an entertaining form gets shared.
The powerful adage “the brand that gets closest to the customer wins” couldn’t be more relevant here. Mining the emotional bonds and connections between pets and their parents offer better and more powerful territory for consistent engagement. Consumers don’t want to be sold. They want to feel good about the decision they make based on attraction to a brand that has the best grasp of their concerns, beliefs and passions. Pet care is part of a wellness-oriented lifestyle. It’s mutually beneficial on so many levels. Here you will find great territory for creative exploration in 2022.
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.