Brands could use pets as channel to engage with owners, says Engage Research

Christmas dinner for dogs

Christmas dinner for dogs

The ability of brands and retailers to demonstrably understand the dynamic between consumers and their pets could be beneficial to commercial success across more than just the pet category.

That’s the view of customer insight agency Engage Research following an announcement by Waitrose it is launching a range of Christmas dinners and treats for dogs. It says insights into the owner-pet relationship can help inform marketing and activation programmes for both pet and non-pet products.

The ‘Lily’s Kitchen Christmas Dinner for Dogs’ includes fresh festive turkey and goose, potatoes, carrots, green beans and cranberry. The offer also includes dedicated treats bursting with Christmassy ingredients including cranberries and cinnamon. 

“The research in this area is very instructive,” said Engage Research’s Lyndsay Peck. “Brands should look closely at our attitudes towards our pets because it impacts on not only how we shop for them but also for ourselves. By authentically tapping into the owner-pet relationship and understanding the dynamic there even non-pet brands could be able to turn that relationship to their own advantage.”

Research from the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) found whilst only 6% of owners have cut back on treats for their pets, 4% on their pet’s food and 3% on their pet’s health, 36% of pet owners have cut back on eating out, 25% on clothes shopping, 24% on holidays and 20% on entertainment.  

“The UK pet food industry is worth around £2bn,” said Peck. “If we know pet owners have felt the impact of the recession but have not cut back not on their pets, brands could find ways of using pets as a channel through which to engage with their owners.” 

There are few relationships less rational or more emotional than the ones people have with their pets and so qualitative research will always be vital to understanding this complex world. Peck explains that, for example, qualitative research among pet owners could be used by brands to explore more deeply the owner’s purchasing intentions when it comes to themselves, their families and their pets. The insights that this produces – around, for example, where non-pet products are positioned relative to pet products in-store, can be used by retailers and brands  – pet and non-pet alike – to inform both marketing and activation programmes not only in the run-up to Christmas but all year round.