By Betsy Mraz, Project Manager, Concepts & Strategy
The future is unknowable, to put it mildly, but this much is certain: There will be dog owners.
With over 63 million U.S. households owning at least one dog, it’s clear Americans already loved dogs pre-COVID-19.
However, as sheltering in place went into effect, animal shelters saw a 700% increase in dog fosters and adoptions. Getting a puppy became just as challenging as getting a Nintendo Switch and toilet paper.
The pandemic caused abrupt shifts in consumer spending, which remain unsettled as the economy absorbs the shocks. In previous downturns, the pet category stood out as one of the few that saw an increase in revenue. So dogs are not only great companions and good for human health – they’re also good for business.
Here are four ways that brands not directly in the pet category can connect and align with the pet craze to stay top of mind and build loyalty.
Similar to the way the NFL has celebrated Super Bowl babies, a year from now we can expect a surge of pet adopt-iversaries with extra poignancy. As pet parents reflect on their first year, they’ll remember how their adoptee served up the unconditional love needed to get through the upheaval of 2020. For brands looking to give consumers all the feels, this is your moment. Dog photos are already the most shared content on social, so naturally filters announcing the anniversary will be popular. Personalization will also be key, with the option to put a pet’s likeness on anything from socks to water bottles. Likewise, restaurants with celebratory treats for our canine counterparts will be a fan favorite.
Expand product offerings.
Pet parents of today want to provide the same lifestyle for their pets that they do for themselves. Although launching products for pups is nothing new, it’s actually grown in popularity as a means to attract the largest pet owning demographic – Millennials. From Glossier’s plush toy versions of their beauty essentials to Tesla’s “Dog Mode” climate control feature, the brands innovating from an authentic place stand out above the rest. Consider your brand’s most iconic product features and benefits. Is there an opportunity to use similar product innovation to create something for our four-legged friends? Casper, for example, took its signature memory-foam technology and applied it to dog beds – a boon to older dogs that need the support.
Meet the moment.
The pandemic poses some distinct challenges for dog owners. With so many people adopting puppies at the same time, obedience classes are in high demand, especially with smaller classes to accommodate social distancing. Any brand with learning/discovery as a pillar could consider addressing this shortage with a smart speaker-based solution. Meanwhile, athleisure and home fitness are booming. Could these brands improve an active lifestyle for dogs?
Workers increasingly want to work for companies that share their values, and for pet owners, that means companies that value pets. Benefits and policies that go a long way with current and future pet owners include:
- Welcoming pets in offices
- Discounts for doggie daycare/hotels for roles that require a lot of travel
- Reimbursing adoption fees
- Offering pet insurance
- Paw-ternity leave
Charitable moves such as hosting volunteer days at a local shelter, having adoption fairs at the office, or even a yearly donation to a shelter, can also speak volumes to employees and candidates.
As for TMA, our CEO gets the dog thing so much that he created a virtual pet parade to lift employees’ spirits during the pandemic. Watch it her.