Why Pet Care Is The Easiest -- AND Hardest -- Category In Marketing

Are you a decision-maker in the pet care marketing space? Congratulations -- and our condolences. You’ve got the easiest and most challenging job in the game. Because the very tools that give you an unfair advantage are also the things that trap you inside a crowded cage of category sameness. Breaking out can be as daunting as it is necessary. 

Pets are a marketing cheat code. Our favorite animals have evolved to capture our attention and compassion. The fact that dogs have developed additional muscles around their eyes to better communicate with us and capitalize on our weakness for big-eyed, childlike faces should tell you all you need to know. We’re suckers.

This emotional playground is hardly a secret. Non-pet-care brands regularly use pets in their ads, thus dimming their novelty and desensitizing us to the emotions that on-screen pets should make us feel.

Pet marketers, fortunately and unfortunately, don’t have a choice. Animals are the tools in your toolbox. So how do you stand out?



Get gritty: Most brands, pet care or otherwise, are hesitant to talk about the grosser, more unpleasant parts of our lives with pets: hair-covered clothes, flying drool, errant poo, and regurgitated socks. But these realities are as much a part of our lives with pets as wagging tails and morning cuddles. And they are hallmarks of a deep, authentic understanding of pets that goes beyond superficial cuteness. Here’s a test: If your work makes non-pet people uncomfortable, you’re doing something right.

Play by the internet’s rules:  Your competition isn’t advertising. It’s the internet, and the internet was built on the back of cat videos, which still make up around 15% of all web traffic. There is a bottomless vat of pet content that is richer, funnier, and more emotionally satisfying than 99.8% of advertising because the internet is unbound by the thick rulebook that brands have written for themselves.

So: Burn the rulebook. Take risks. Get weird. Don’t settle for a smile from your audience -- and be willing to turn some of them off.

Yes, do go there:  Our relationship with pets isn’t clean and perfect and free of brutal heartache. Yes, our pets make us laugh more than any living creature, spouses included. But our relationships with our pets are also complex and sad and invariably far too short. Being an authentic voice in pet care requires the willingness to be vulnerable and show the un-sunny side of our lives with pets.

Don’t be so literal: Even the most beautiful photographic representation of pets will have a tough time standing out. So, what can you do differently? Consider representing pets in a more abstract way, while still aiming to elicit the emotions they make us feel. Explore illustration. Take artistic and storytelling risks. Few other brands will, and that’s the point.

Be radically inclusive: It’s hypocritical and boring for us humans not to embrace our pets’ crooked tails, lumpy noggins, droopy eyes, and missing limbs. It’s all part of what makes them so loveable. Not to mention, it taps into our need to be caregivers.

Don’t be afraid to go where other brands won’t. It may take some experimenting -- but our pets don’t learn new behaviors without a bit of dedicated practice, either.

1 comment about "Why Pet Care Is The Easiest -- AND Hardest -- Category In Marketing".
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  1. Richard Cruz from Hearts & Science, March 25, 2024 at 6:57 p.m.

    What a great and refreshing article. I have always felt that at Pet Care not enough work has been done, in communication I mean, because the innovation of products and services surpassed us.

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