pet consumer dynamics study



There is a great new consumer dynamics study from Acxiom exploring pet owners and the retail industry. Because I am familiar with the Iams business I knew a lot of the information … but it’s good to get some positive confirmation from a source like Acxiom.



Their research process highlights the fact pet owners think of their animals as part of the family (think “extended family” … go figure … they had to spend thousands to find that out, huh?)).





In other words, to most of us, dogs and cats are basically “furry children.”

But let me add in some nuances they didn’t cover:



1.            Pet owners typically revert back to what they did know (or tried to compare) – bringing up children (or comparing bringing up a pet with a child).


They even try to use those words in focus groups, written diaries and one-on-ones.




The largest source of frustration is the lack of ability for pets (dogs/cats) to verbalize.  In other words we owners try and treat our pets like children and get frustrated because of their lack of ability to give us verbal feedback because … well … they aren’t human.


The second largest source of frustration (and this is a subset of the first) is when we owners misread the non-verbal pet cues which we believe we have learned to interpret over time and have actually misread (but … we keep trying).




2.            Evolving relationships (we think in human terms).  Think (simplistically) in thirds.


a. the rambunctious youth.



b. the easing found within maturing responsibility (less frustrating but some frustration spikes).



c. the aged companion.



Owners have slightly different relationships with our pets in each aspect.


Extreme high & lows in first third (pets can uncover incredible high and low range of emotions) spanning from anger to unbelievable heights of joy or caring.





With the bond attachment complete in 1st third of the relationship it evens out in the second third (maturing responsibility). The emotions deepen without the 1st third extreme high & lows. There is an ease and comfort within the relationship.

There becomes some established behavior (both owner & pet) and some defined roles.



The last third is as close to aspects of human love as you can get. Our aged companion is family – fully intertwined into our human lives and often dictating some of our own behavior.




3.            It is also true (and research does show this … scientific as well as qualitative) that our pets assume some of our own characteristics. This translates into the amazing bond most owners have in their last third of the relationship. It is because at that time the pet has assumed their strongest tie to some specific characteristic of the owner and the owners comes to accept and love that characteristic – because, maybe oddly, the owners sees themselves in the pet.





Back to the study.


What I did find interesting in the acxiom study is how they attempt to isolate “Animal Averse” audiences (people who just don’t like pets).


What they point out is that there are very very few people who are truly Animal Averse.

Instead pet ownership (or a lack of a pet) is driven more by human lifestage and home environment (rather than being Averse). What that means is that while it is easy to avoid targeting Animal Averse those clusters can quickly enter the pet ownership desirable group as their life changes and home environment changes.  Bottom line is that very few people are truly a full life Animal Averse person.






While cat and dog owners are adamant about how different they are the study shows a lot of commonalities (referred to as the Claws & Paws core characteristics). The differences are mostly in nuances (dog owners seem to be slightly more affluent and brand sensitive to pet product purchase behavior).




And while only 4% of adults said they disliked dogs almost 26% of adults said they disliked cats.



The true difference between what they call the Feline fervor and Doggedly Devoted groupings arise in media consumption. Because I am not that computer savvy I cannot figure out how to lift a nifty chart from the pdf research report but it is a cool chart that outlines by media type (tv, radio, magazine, etc) the differences between what dog owners do versus cat owners do.  And there are some differences (whoda thunk) which could have an impact if you were ever asked to spend a couple million dollars to effectively reach specific audiences.






I have always found pet marketing interesting. At times you have to not only look at the humans (owners and vets) to seek insights but you have to deep dive into the pets heads for insights and learnings.   As a trainer once told me as I stood there with my border collie … “we aren’t training your dog, we are training you. So think about what behavior you want from your dog and what you need to generate it (other then simply yelling/telling).”



And that is what Pet category marketing is all about … helping train owners on meeting their pet’s needs.


Neat category.


Neat study.

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Written by Bruce