Despite the economic downturn, the perennially, pet loving United Kingdom is still spending upwards of £1.5bn each year on petcare products.

With around 8 million cats and 8.4 million dogs in the UK, there is something in the region of 100 million mealtimes every week.

Add to this, the continually climbing UK population, it looks like the UK petcare market will go from strength to strength. According to the Pet Foods manufacturers association, 48% of UK households have at least one pet. Add to this the rise in single dwelling living – household pets are likely to be a continued necessity for many.

A few weeks ago, Hotcow reported on a great piece of creative work for Bakers, who created a clever brand experience that our loveable canines could literally sink their teeth into.

Yet the very existence of this activation was quite unique. In truth, the petcare marketplace is not a traditional exponent of Experiential marketing. Whilst we often see the likes of Coca Cola or Samsung constantly offering us new ways to interact with them in a live environment, we very rarely see petcare brands try to engage with us and demonstrate their more ‘human’ side.

Considering that many pet owners often consider their pets worthy of more affection than their spouse (purely my opinion of course) it surely makes sense for pet brands to reach out to pet owners and create an experiential platform that drives conversation, educates the target audience and develop a deeper relationship.

One of the key issues is that petcare brands are selling products that benefits end users – the pets! 

Yet their entire marketing strategies are focused on selling to the owners – who of course, are highly unlikely to be using or testing any of the products themselves.

So should petcare brands create powerful brand experiences which engage more with the pets themselves? 

The reality of course, is probably not – Although Bakers cleverly managed to create an experience, where dogs were the focus of the activation, the location of the event was on Clapham common where dog owners regularly frequent, whilst they take their dogs for their daily walk. But the actual footfall and number of engagements would have been relatively low compared with a brand experience based in a busy high street or shopping centre.

Consumers on the whole, tend to leave their pets at home when they are out shopping, or enjoying some leisure time. So creating experiences that cater for animals is generally a disingenuous approach, when it is the owners who control the purse strings and purchasing decisions.

But pet owners are always looking at ways in which to treat and pamper their pets. More than ever, pet owners are increasingly conscious of the nutritional value petcare products offer (although 35% of UK dogs are apparently overweight!)

Leading petcare brands are continually introducing products that offer an increasingly diverse range of benefits for both health and lifestyle. Food products may now contain active ingredients that help combat problems such as tartar build up, or essential oils and vitamins to boost immune systems and keep coats shiny.

Sanicat, the leading brand for Spanish corporation, Grupo Tolsa, have now produced a cat litter called ‘oxygen power’ that slowly releases oxygen molecules to remove micro-organisms to neutralise any unpleasant odours.

These innovations mean that both pets and their owners, can enjoy an ever-more harmonious relationship with one another. But petcare brands need to look at how to communicate these offerings to consumers beyond the supermarket shelves.

As with any marketplace, the less competition you have to contend with, the greater the opportunity to make your mark. With petcare brands virtually anonymous in the live arena, there is an opportunity for brave petcare brands to position themselves in such a way that consumers no longer see them as a product on a shelf, but a trusted partner who is always there for them, looking after the needs of their cherished family pets.

Hotcow is a multi-award winning Experiential Marketing agency. We get brands in front of consumers in ways that persuade them to buy. We fully implement our ideas; nothing needs to be farmed out. For more information or free consultation, contact us