Personality Packs a Punch in Petcare

At Haines McGregor I’m known for 2 things – yoga and dogs, which when you think about it, go hand in hand…or paw in hand. They both are clinically proven to reduce stress, they both help ground you daily, and indeed they both like the ‘downward dog’ pose!  But today I’m going to focus on our relentless obsession with our ‘fur-babies’, and think about how brands can better position themselves to take advantage of the unique ‘pet-owner’ relationship.

We are all guilty as pet owners of anthropomorphising this relationship, we do this through the adoption of rites of passage and other human rituals; such as celebrating pet birthdays, happy ‘gotcha’ days, and even betrothing our beloved pets to their ‘girlfriend’ up the road!  All great Hallmark moments, but on a day to day basis how can we capitalise on this phenomenon and build in more ‘emotional’ triggers to our positioning, innovation and communications?

Jeremy Haines often cites Felix as one of the great positioning jobs in the category…where a genuine insight into the ‘tom cat’ was captured and brought to life through Felix, a flirty loveable rogue who would stay out on the tiles all night if it wasn’t for the lure of his favourite cat food.  By dialing up the cheeky side of Felix’s personality the brand helps reconcile the tension in our relationship with our pet shifting them from exploring night crawlers to contented lap nappers. There are few brands that can’t be enhanced by animal characterisation. After all, as well as Pet-food, it’s worked for categories as diverse as breakfast cereal, banking, price comparison and paint to name a few.

So personality is one key dimension by which we can dial up a more emotive bond, and if we look across the category outside of Sheba the Lover and Felix the Explorer, there are few brands doing a great job here. Where is the Rebel pet brand? What brand of food, toys, accessories help us tame that feisty little bundle of fluff and allow us to pet and pamper him/her or indeed just celebrate their naughtiness? Where does your brand sit in terms of archetypal personalities?

Looking at human trends in food/drink, health /beauty, travel & luxury is always a great feed for innovation inspiration, get the team together and organise a day out…look for clues from parallel markets and outlier brands. What’s happening in craft, in high end nutrition, in luxury travel? If it’s all about ‘clean eating’ for us humans…how can we transport these values, emotional and functional benefits into our category? Look where the lesson can be drawn…dating site becomes, farmers market and the concept of fresh becomes Lilly’s Kitchen.  And if we can’t deliver against current competences who can we piggy back with?  Don’t be confined to the manufacturing definition of ‘pet nutrition’, cast your net wide…think of the insight at the centre of why we love owning and caring for our pets and take it from there.

Over the years I’ve noticed a proliferation of innovation within the higher end functional pet foods, Eukanuba, Hills, Royal Canin, but few brands talk to the deep seated emotional motivations of pet ownership, the desire to nurture (Caesar), the need to feel ‘in the know’, or ‘secure and comforted’.  Key here is the use of high levels of visualisation in research to elicit those system 2 responses, to get under the skin of the relationship and bypass ‘rational’ responses.  Lilly’s Kitchen have done a great job here in understanding the need for nurture and harmony.

To find out more about how we get to archetypes and how to diagnose and develop your brands personality please contact Hayley Roe on or 020 7352 8322.