How To Create a Successful Pet Marketing Strategy

Globally, the pet care industry was valued at $235.32 billion as of 2022, and it’s expected to reach $368.88 billion by 2030. It’s an industry built on unconditional love: Pet owners will do anything for their beloved animals. 

As a pet business marketer, you need a solid pet marketing strategy to reach pet owners and position your brand, or your client’s, as the go-to pet brand for their needs.

Below, you’ll find four actionable steps to create a winning pet marketing strategy that builds a customer base and promotes brand loyalty. But before we dive in, let’s explore the pet industry and discuss current pet marketing, ownership, and spending trends. 

The Pet Industry Landscape 101

Today’s pet industry has significantly evolved, benefiting people and their pets. The standards of pet well-being have risen thanks to the evolution and widespread adoption of holistic pet wellness approaches, including: 

  • Specialized diets: More pet owners seek hypoallergenic pet food, as well as diets that are tailored to individual animal needs. 
  • Holistic health and preventive care: Trends such as herbal treatments have gone mainstream, alongside maintaining a high standard of regular veterinary care.
  • Pet insurance: More pet owners carry dental, health, or comprehensive pet insurance.
  • Smart pet technology: Wearable devices, such as trackers and smart collars, help pet owners track pet health details. Meanwhile, high-end items like self-cleaning litter boxes have become increasingly commonplace.
  • Specialized pet grooming products: The pet product market has more pet cleaning products to maintain coat and skin health and overall hygiene.

As the pet industry changes, so do consumer behaviors and spending habits. 

Rise in Pet Ownership

America’s love affair with pets continues to peak. According to an American Pet Products Association (APPA) report, 87 million U.S. households owned a pet in 2022. This substantially increased from the 73 million households that owned a pet in 2010. Further, the APPA predicts that 95 million households will be pet owners by 2028. 

Gen Z and millennial households are mostly credited for this rapid rise in pet ownership. The same APPA report indicates that 71% of Gen Z and 73% of millennial households own more than two pets.

Consumer Spending Habits on Pet Products

People are spending more on their pets. The same APPA report referenced above says American pet owners spent a whopping $136.8 billion in 2022 purchasing the following pet products and services:

  • Pet food and treats — $58.1 billion
  • Vet care services — $35.9 billion
  • Pet supplies and over-the-counter medications — $31.5 billion
  • Other pet-related services such as pet insurance, grooming, and training — $11.4 billion

A notable consumer spending habit is the widespread preference for premium pet food. According to the APPA’s “Strategic Insights for the Pet Industry: Pet Owners 2023 and Beyond” report, 45% of dog owners purchased premium dog food in 2022, while 26% purchased basic formulas. 

Key Steps To Create a Successful Pet Marketing Strategy

The pet care industry is as competitive as it is lucrative, with almost 17,000 pet retailers in the U.S. alone. A solid pet marketing strategy helps your pet brand stand out and attract more business. A well-measured strategy for marketing to pet owners should have these four critical steps:

1. Identify Your Target Audience

Developing an effective pet marketing campaign starts with a target market survey. You need an in-depth understanding of your customers to craft marketing messages that resonate with your target audience.

First-party data, as well as privacy-safe data access, can help you identify your target audience more effectively. All subtle details — such as hobbies, behaviors, interests, career, age, and gender — are critical. But how do you gather and analyze this information from a broad pet owner audience? 

Here’s how:

Segment Pet Owners by Demographics and Psychographics

Because pet owners number in the millions, it can be hard to know them at a personal level without segmenting them into different subgroups. Psychographics and demographics are two critical audience segmentation metrics you should leverage to better understand your audience.

Demographics refer to an audience’s identifying characteristics, such as age, gender, income level, marital status, and career. In the pet care industry, age and pet type are critical demographic differentiators that any savvy pet marketer should analyze first. Knowing the age of pet owners helps you select a relevant ad message tone and the best media channels to use.

For instance, millennials, who make up 33% of pet owners, prefer visual storytelling and personalized marketing experiences. Additionally, 79% of millennials prefer brands to contact them through email, 47% prefer text messaging, and 39% prefer social media. Thus, your pet marketing strategy might prioritize personalization and email marketing channels for millennials. However, Hubspot reports that 59% of millennials claim they find new products most often on social media, so don’t neglect meeting your audience there. 

Pet type is also a fundamental demographic differentiator in the pet industry. The types of pets your target audience keeps determine the types of pet advertising you create for them. As a basic example, only 2% of Gen Xers keep pet turtles, while 69% keep dogs. This means that, if you’re marketing pet food to Gen Xers, you should allocate more of your marketing resources to advertising dog food instead of turtle food.

Psychographics is the other segmentation metric that goes along with demographics. It refers to a customer’s personal and social characteristics, commonly summarized as IAO — interests, activities, and opinions. Influenced mainly by a customer’s personality, these characteristics include spending habits, hobbies, and lifestyle.

For instance, pet humanization is a big trend among Gen Z pet owners, as these stats from a Segmenta pet survey show. 

  • 33% of Gen Zers consider their pets to be their children.
  • 81% of Gen Zers celebrate their pet’s birthday.
  • 43% of Gen Zers dress up their pets to celebrate festive occasions and holidays.

Psychographic data empowers you to segment wider audiences into more targeted niches. For example, an ad depicting the humanization of a pet will appeal to a Gen Z audience more emotively than a Gen X audience. 

Fortunately, personalizing ads for different audiences is easier and more effective thanks to programmatic advertising, dynamic creative, and advanced AI technologies.

Understand the Needs and Preferences of Pet Owners

The needs and wants of pet owners may change over time depending on the prevailing marketing trends and individual preferences. Your job as a pet marketer is to keep up with the changing needs of your target audience and adapt your marketing message accordingly. You can do this by observing market trends or surveying existing and potential customers.

For example, the widespread market trends and shifts that most pet owners subscribe to include:

  • Innovative pet food packaging technology: This includes re-closable pouches, bisphenol A (BPA) free packaging, and portion-controlled packaging.
  • Consolidated services: Pet owners appreciate a one-stop shop to buy their pet products and access pet services. 
  • Pet product shopping: Many pet owners (34%) purchase pet items online, even though most (38%) prefer in-person shopping at a brick-and-mortar pet shop. 

You can also survey existing customers or analyze their product reviews, sentiments on social media, comments, and feedback. Some survey questions you may ask current customers include:

  • What’s your most annoying pet care problem?
  • What’s your user experience with our pet products and services?
  • What would make you spend with our pet brand? 

The insights you glean from observing market trends and surveying customers should shape your pet marketing strategy and campaign.

For example, a pet food brand may find that bulky packages are a nuisance to pet owners who travel a lot. In that case, they might include portable pet food packages in some ads. Knowing a customer’s immediate needs and desires helps you ace personalized advertising, which is increasingly an expectation for modern consumers.

You can work with a partner like AUDIENCEX to take advantage of access to in-depth research capabilities, enabling audits of existing brand and marketing materials. You can also gain insight into your brand sentiment, market position, competitors, and more – all of which can be leveraged to develop more effective strategies, creative, and messaging.

Leverage Emergent Technology to Gain Insight Into Your Audience

Gaining this kind of objective insight into your target audience, based on data rather than relying on assumption, can be achieved much more easily using AI-powered tools, such as AUDIENCEX Intelligence (AXi). With these tools, massive amounts of data can be rapidly analyzed, including your own consumer data, opted-in privacy-safe datasets, and historical and log-level data access. This can help you to better understand your audience, gain critical behavior insights, and build custom predictive audiences to maximize your performance.

These behavioral insights can also enable you to personalize your ads more effectively, aligning your messaging with changing consumer expectations to ensure your message is relevant to each audience. Taking advantage of real-time optimization, meanwhile, makes your campaign adaptable, responding to performance and user behavior in real time. Using these tools can help you to find where your ideal audience is most active and when they’re most likely to convert, placing the right message in the right place at the right time to drive results.

Working with an expert partner, like AUDIENCEX, provides not only access to tools like these, but teams that are well-versed in how to navigate them most effectively to achieve the specific goals of any campaign.

2. Set Objectives for Your Pet Marketing Campaign

Once you understand your target audience, their wants and pain points, your pet marketing strategy and campaign should seek to address those specific needs. At the same time, it should advance your brand reputation and overall goals. 

To strike this delicate balance, you should:

Define Your Brand’s Goals

The end goal of any pet marketing campaign is increasing sales and revenue. But you must first set, define, and achieve other preceding goals to reach this end goal. These goals are typically captured under the AIDA — awareness, interest, desire, and action — marketing model. 

Here’s the breakdown:

  • Awareness entails generating brand awareness among the target audience to let them know your pet brand exists. Your campaign goal may be to achieve a certain percentage of new social media followers, website visits, social shares, foot traffic, or post views. 
  • Interest involves raising a customer’s interest in the pet products and services your brand offers. Your goal may be to increase blog or product page views by a certain percentage.
  • Desire is all about triggering a want for your pet products and services from customers experiencing the pain points the pet products promise to solve. Your campaign goal may be to increase product/service price inquiries by a set percentage. 
  • Action means nurturing target customers toward a purchase decision. You may aim to achieve a certain percentage of pet product/service sales. 

Although your marketing goals might not mirror the above examples, they’ll almost always follow the AIDA model. It’s an excellent springboard for defining a brand’s goals utilized by many marketers globally.

Align Marketing Objectives With Your Business Strategy

Your marketing goals should complement and impact your short- and long-term business goals as much as possible. The first step to achieve this is cultivating buy-in from the corporate non-marketing executives at your pet brand.

It ensures everyone at the brand has an informed idea of the marketing campaign’s objectives. You avoid friction with non-marketing departments, which may feel like your marketing campaign is taking too long to yield results. 

For instance, suppose your short-term business goal is opening a pet shop in a new location.  You should ensure the business development department knows how long your local search engine optimization (SEO) strategy may take to produce organic traffic. 

This will help you get the much-needed financial backing to afford paid search and mix it with organic search. This way, you’ll attain a higher search engine ranking much sooner and help popularize your pet brand more rapidly.

3. Craft a Compelling Brand Message

One thing all pet owners have in common, regardless of the generational divide, is their love for their pets. Pet owners share a strong emotional connection with their pets. Because pet care services and products directly impact a pet’s well-being and health, people are naturally selective about which pet shop, food, and service is best for their pets. 

Your overall duty as a pet marketer is to earn people’s trust and explain why your brand is the best option to purchase pet products, foods, or services. To achieve this, your pet ads should speak to the hearts and emotions of pet owners and stir their deep-seated love for their pets. 

It’s important to approach this in a way that is authentic to your specific brand and unique to your tone. Of course, while individual placements will vary based on personalization, audience, context, and campaign goals, your overarching brand message should always be felt even if it isn’t directly expressed.

4. Leverage the Right Marketing Channels

After identifying your target audience, their pain points, and crafting a persuasive marketing message, the next step is selecting the right marketing channel to publish your pet ads. 

Here are four top channels you should prioritize:

Social Media Marketing: Instagram, Facebook, YouTube

The right social media platform will display your pet ad to wider audiences with a high conversion rate. You must establish which social channels the different generations of pet parents use the most. Content should also be considered not only for the audience it is targeting, but within the best practices to perform on each platform.

Here’s how different generations use these social media platforms:

  • Gen Z: 75% use YouTube, 59% use Instagram, and 43% use Facebook once daily.
  • Millennials: 87% use Facebook, 72% use Instagram, and 66% use YouTube.
  • Gen X: 95% use YouTube, 81% use Facebook, and 62% use Instagram.
  • Baby Boomers: 78% use Facebook, 67% use YouTube, and 32% use Instagram. 

Influencer Partnerships and Affiliate Marketing

Influencer marketing has gained much attention in the marketing world. Overall, 69% of consumers trust influencers’ product or service recommendations. Given the wide trust gap you must bridge to win over pet owners as customers, it makes sense to leverage pet influencers in your marketing campaign. 

You can also use affiliate marketing to boost your pet product sales. Affiliate marketing is a referral program compensating third parties (affiliates) with an agreed commission from the sales they generate. It’s a good marketing strategy, especially when penetrating new or hyper-competitive markets or pushing new pet products.

Events and Community Engagement

Pet-themed events offer the perfect opportunity to socialize with pet owners and market pet products. You can work with pet expo event organizers to buy ad space or exhibit at the show, or find events such as adoption drives, or a dog-friendly 5K marathon or walk to sponsor. 

Promoting loyalty programs, providing an exclusive item or giveaway at the event, and offering discounts at such events can all be extremely effective.

Collaborations With Other Pet Brands or Veterinarians

Depending on what type of pet products or services you are marketing, it can be a great move to collaborate with other pet-focused brands to promote your products and services. This can be a great way for smaller brands to gain wider awareness by reaching a new audience, or to gain access to larger pet events that may be otherwise beyond their reach. 

Partnering with veterinarians can also be helpful, since they interact with pet owners directly and have already won their trust.

Leverage Innovative Marketing Techniques in the Pet Industry

As more Americans embrace pet ownership, more pet businesses offering pet care services and products are cropping up. This heightens competition in pet marketing as each pet brand strives to get the lion’s share of the pet industry revenue. 

Leveraging modern tech-driven marketing approaches like programmatic advertising and advanced AI-enabled solutions can help your marketing efforts rise above the competition and industry noise.

Programmatic marketing solutions recommend the most profitable media ad slots and channels for your pet ads. AUDIENCEX utilizes machine-learning technology to analyze multiple programmatic platforms, finding the ideal channel mix to meet your specific goals and get the most out of your budget. Alongside this, we leverage the AXi suite to enable custom predictive audiences, ongoing real-time optimization, and provide full transparency into your performance across every channel and touchpoint.

Build Market Share and Grow Your Pet Brand With AUDIENCEX

The pet marketing landscape, like other sectors, is hyper-competitive and data-driven. Without artificial intelligence (AI) driven marketing solutions, your pet brand’s growth may find itself limited in the near future. You’ll struggle to keep up with competitors who are increasingly leveraging AI solutions to drive business growth.

AUDIENCEX works diligently to provide access to the latest in emergent AI technologies, privacy-safe data access, and extensive market research capabilities to all of our clients. We ensure that you stay ahead of changes to our rapidly evolving landscape, providing a technology-first, AI-powered approach that is backed by seamless omnichannel media access, tech-enabled creative, custom holistic strategies, and deep expertise spanning verticals.

Our dedicated teams can help you effectively leverage the latest emergent technologies, access invaluable market research, and develop and execute strategies that will drive scalable performance and growth across every channel, understanding how each touchpoint and placement builds upon one another to drive results throughout every stage of the customer journey.

Contact us today to speak with a member of our team who can help you navigate the digital landscape to develop more effective pet marketing strategies for your brand or agency.