The effect on the pet industry as we adapt to a new normal

Those of us who are lucky enough to already have pets can take joy in knowing that there is another (be they non-human) member of the family with them during this time of isolation. As we try to adjust to the new world we are living in, with many of us working from home or bravely working to support our healthcare system, the impact on our pets’ lives is also changing. And the pet industry has already noticeably shifted, with Battersea Cats and Dogs Home experiencing an increased interest in rehoming due to people trying to alleviate loneliness. 

The Prime Minister has allowed pet shops and veterinary practices to stay open to serve pet owners with essential items and deal with essential and emergency health needs, so what can pet brands actually do to support the industry in these unprecedented times?

Time for pet brands to step up 

Just as parents are looking for support to keep their children entertained staring down the barrel of months of home schooling, pet brands can step up to offer advice to consumers on how to keep their pets amused when they’re not getting out as much. Whether this includes Kong recipes, DIY games or suggestions to mix up daily routines, there’s the potential for brands to really be creative in what they can suggest to their target audience.   

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As panic-buying still reins free in supermarkets, the same is  happening with pet products as pandemic fears lead to a surge in pet food sales.

The question is, when the panic-buying ceases, will shoppers go back to the common ‘topping-up’ style of purchasing or continue with the bulk-buying shopping patterns they have become accustomed to? If it is the latter, then brands should consider changes in pack sizes to accommodate this behaviour. For those who still need to purchase food for their pets, the world of ecommerce and D2C will quickly become crucial. Brands should ensure their messaging is fit for purpose on these channels.  

As many retailers, brands and food banks are already doing, pet brands should look at how they can offer isolation packs to those who can’t leave their homes to purchase supplies for their pets. These packages could include a range of items like cat litter, toys, treats and food. We’re also going to see a lot of innovation in the sector, as it’s an opportunity for brands to be a bit more creative with the products they develop – from toys to alleviate boredom, to anxiety-beating solutions, to health supplements and happiness boosters. 

Brands need to consider the media they are utilising. Where before they could spend budget on retailer media or OOH, now alternatives like activating an eCRM campaign or Door Drop, knowing people are at home, is more suited. In addition, they need to think about how social media can work hard for them. Utilising content they already have which can be pushed through programmatic and focused social media targeting is key. Start with where the audience is and build from there. It doesn’t have to cost you the earth either.

Brand messaging 

We are currently seeing a lot of FMCG brands changing their marketing plans in response to the impact of Covid-19, and I expect pet brands to follow suit. They’re no longer able to activate experiential work or sponsorship partnerships and are instead increasing social media spend and investment in striking a more relevant and caring tone. 

When pet brands are looking at alternative routes for their marketing plans, they need to ask themselves the following: 

  • What are shoppers saying, how are they responding to the climate in relation to their new needs and attitudes?
  • What might the future look like and how can brands innovate or adapt to this? 
  • What reassurances can a brand offer? And what is it doing to help with the wider community? 
  • Is the marketing empathetic to the consumer, showing them you’re on the same team and not just trying to sell them something? 
  • Has the media plan been updated to accommodate the new ways people are consuming media? 

The most important thing is for brands to avoid being too opportunistic or trying to ‘cash in’, and instead ensure they offer help that is aligned with shoppers’ needs. 

Wider implications 

The impact of Covid-19 will be greater on smaller businesses and as people are working from home more or facing stricter rules regarding leaving their houses, pet walkers and groomers are struggling, meaning bigger brands and businesses need to support them in their future. The brands that are being seen to help the community whilst striking the right tone and behaviour, are the ones which will succeed in the future. 

Bex Berry, Growth Director at Golley Slater 

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