According to Mintel, the pet food category will continue to gain steam, growing to $22.8 billion by 2019. The humanization of pets has allowed the category to grow into new product segments and tap into the emotions of being a “pet parent” allowing brands to connect on a deeper level. However, the humanization trend is now cemented as the new normal of the pet category, resulting in homogenization of pet brands. The question of differentiation emerges as a new priority for many brands.
While humanization is pervasive, it is no longer differentiating.
Pet brands need to work harder to stand out and connect with pet parents, especially in store. Humanization resulted in many pet brands imitating the look of human food brands. While this made sense, it also created a sea of sameness that weakened brand meaning.
Instead of co-opting the look of a human brand, we believe differentiation can be achieved through learning from human brand behavior.
We have seen a trend in the human world of small entrepreneurial brands challenging larger mass brands with stories of transparency, honesty and authenticity. These brands are on a mission to make the world a better place and do more than simply sell something. This strategy has delivered a strong point of difference and competitive advantage, attracting consumers who look for brands that share their own values.
Here lies the opportunity. Brands on a mission attract like-minded people.
Mission-based brands possess a higher purpose and communicate a deep seeded belief in their product, even their livelihood. The beauty of bringing this strategy into the pet food category is that it mimics the behavior of pet parents, folks on a mission to raise a happy pet who will prosper with a long and healthy life.
So while the category continues to fall in line behind its human brand counterparts, visionary pet food brands would be wise to look at behavior versus image, to connect with pet parents and differentiate on something more meaningful: purpose and mission.