In 2021, the UK pet food category generated a market value of £3.1 billion. This is an exciting, profitable and highly competitive category, largely dominated by heritage brands so established that their names are synonymous with the sector, but with no shortage of smaller established brands, and new market entrants, all competing for the attention of pet owners in approximately 17 million UK households.
Human Pet Food Campaigns
In 2021, the UK pet food category generated a market value of £3.1 billion.
This is an exciting, profitable and highly competitive category, largely dominated by heritage brands so established that their names are synonymous with the sector, but with no shortage of smaller established brands, and new market entrants, all competing for the attention of pet owners in approximately 17 million UK households.
With 3.2 million pets purchased in the UK since the coronavirus pandemic began, many by first-time pet owners, the pet food category is growing and ever evolving.
Brands in this category are faced with three very difficult challenges:
1. Competing to attain market share against businesses with decades of brand awareness and market recognition.
2. Navigating the deep rooted behaviours of pet owners.
3. Meeting the evolving needs of pet owners and understanding their relationships with their pets.
As a people-first creative agency, we understand people, and use behavioural thinking to build Human brands. Brands that offer their audience the relationship they desire and expect, whether that be a deep and meaningful connection, a speedy and functional interaction, or something in between.
At HeyHuman, we start all our work with an understanding of our audience, leaning on insights grounded in neuroscience principles, research, and testing, to create dynamic, memorable and effective pet food campaigns that change consumer behaviours, and help clients succeed in this difficult and competitive category.
This approach enables us to understand the needs of pet owners, their relationships with their pets, and the role that pets play in our lives, to help pet food brands remain competitive in an evolving market.
With the market shifting significantly towards pet owners more closely considering their pet’s health and wellbeing, and towards pets having a more equal role in our homes, our people-first approach, and audience understanding, goes a long way.
The Human Challenges of Pet Food Campaigns
The dog food sector is the pet food category’s most profitable and competitive market, and as of 2022, is valued at around £1.5 billion. It’s also a sector we know well, having helped brands to navigate the dog food market’s own unique set of marketing challenges.
With brands like Pedigree and Bakers dominating the market (with sizable marketing spends and decades-long market recognition and awareness), many other established dog food brands building their already loyal consumer base, and new entrants like Butternut Box, Bella & Duke, and Tails.com shaking up the market with new and exciting offerings, the fight for market share is tough.
What’s more, with so many dog food brands, many of which offer the same kind of products, across a large number of different dog food product categories, it can be hard for brands to find their customers.
Perhaps the most significant challenge in the dog food market however, is changing consumer behaviour, and driving dog owners to consider an alternative product, when their dog appears to be happy and healthy.
Our pet food campaigns connect brands to their audience, by challenging, and changing consumer behaviour, creating a need for a product, and reacting to the needs of pet owners and their pets.
People-First Pet Food Campaigns
How do we do this?
As a people-first creative agency, we understand people, and are focussed on connecting brands and their audience in different deeper ways, building human brands that provide their consumers with the relationship they need, and creating dynamic and effective pet food campaigns.
We take our people-first approach to new levels, establishing a deep understanding of how the audience’s relationship with the pet food category has changed over time, in order to help us adapt our communication to stay relevant, and meet the evolving needs of pet owners.
With a deep understanding of the relationship between the audience and their pets, and by challenging the conventions used across the category, we create pet food campaigns and communications with more emotion, rather than just relying on functional claims, making our campaigns not only stand out, but connect with the audience in a more meaningful way.
An essential part of our approach is our 3 Q’s process.
This is a 90 minute session that we conduct with clients after foundation briefing, and initial planning stages are complete
We kick it off with a deep dive into the category, brand and audience, to lay the foundations on which we’ll build our strategy and approach.
Then, we jump into question 1, “What is the behaviour we want to change?”, where we explore the action we want the audience to take in relation to the brand.
To answer question 2, “What could be stopping the audience from doing what we want them to?”, we identify the barriers we need to overcome in order to change consumer behaviour.
Next, we explore key comparisons both from in and out of the category to answer question 3, “What comparisons do people draw from what we are asking of them?”, also identifying the comparisons we can make to help the audience.
The 3 Q’s then lead us to the Creative Thought Starters stage where we detail how we will overcome the barriers we have identified, create rewards, and create easy shortcuts.
The end of the 3Q’s process marks the start of the creative process.
At HeyHuman, we create “Unusual Everyday Ideas”. These ideas help to form creative, dynamic and effective pet food campaigns that have the power to change people’s behaviour. They also make their way into culture.
We execute our Unusual Everyday Ideas through the channels that are relevant to the audience, including TV, Social, Shopper and Experiential to deliver targeted, effective, campaigns that drive results.
Creating Human Pet Food Campaigns
In our work with raw dog food brand Natures Menu, we were able to overcome the many marketing challenges across the pet food category, and help the brand drive long term profitable growth.
Starting as a family business in 1981, Natures Menu have become the market-leading raw dog food brand, creating their own “real pet food” at their state of the art facility in Norfolk.
Beyond the typical challenges presented by the pet food category, and the even more challenging dog food market, we were faced with two more.
1. Natures Menu had a modest marketing budget compared to their competitors, and so we needed to find a new and profitable way of competing in this category.
2. We had to not only challenge and change the behaviour of dog owners to try a different way of feeding their dog, one that’s likely to be more expensive, but we had to encourage them to try a wholly different kind of product and adopt an entirely new diet for their dog. What’s more, we had to change consumer buying habits, driving the user to move from supermarket shopping, to buying online.
In order to create effective pet food campaigns to drive results for Natures Menu, we first had to answer a big, and seemingly simple, question. How do you get people to switch to raw dog food?
To answer this, we began establishing a deep understanding of the audience taking a people first approach.
Amongst others, the main audiences we identified were:
- People who are feeding raw to fix a health problem
- People preventing a health problem with raw feeding
- People who are loyal to raw feeding
However, at HeyHuman, we look to find a unifying mindset, and identify a human truth applicable to the entire audience, to ensure our pet food campaigns make an impact.
We categorised members of our identified audience as Grateful Quality Seekers, and defined their mindset as people who recognise the importance their dog plays in their lives, who want to do the very best for them, and invest in products that ensure their dog is going to be healthy and happy.
We identified that the human truth for this audience was that their dog was an extension of them, and how their dog looks and behaves is a reflection of the care they provide.
We also identified that our pet food campaign would have to speak to the changing needs of the audience, as dog owners move towards considering ways to improve their dog’s health and wellbeing, and the category sees a shift towards dogs having a more equal role to their owners.
Inside Our Dog Food Campaign
In planning our first campaign, we looked outside of the category for inspiration.
In this instance, we were influenced by the beauty category, and combined the bombastic and dramatic approach commonly adopted across beauty campaigns, with our audience insights, to create the “Get the raw food look” campaign.
We created a digital-first, tongue in cheek campaign that dramatised the superiority, confidence and smugness shown by dogs that are feeling and looking their best. Behaviour most dog owners will recognise with a wry smile.
Taking further influence from the beauty industry, we took the dogs in our pet food campaign out of the traditional home setting used by many brands in the dog food market, and shot our campaign footage on a beach in Norfolk. This enabled us to pay homage to the brand’s heritage, and capture the dogs in an ideal, free, environment, where they could embody the joyful, smug confidence we were hoping to capture.
“Get the raw food look” showcased the benefits of feeding a raw diet, that are visible to the owner, including a shiny coat, clean teeth, better breath, and smaller “poos”, and featured carefully crafted messaging that spoke to the heart of our audience.
The campaign succeeded in raising awareness of Natures Menu as a brand by +6%, increased consideration in online searches by +14%, and grew sales by 36%, driving people to switch to feeding their dogs a raw diet, using products from Natures Menu.
If your brand is looking for a creative agency to take your pet food campaigns to the next level, contact us today.