Sub-woof-ers: Sonic branding in the pet industry
If you’re among the massive 76% of Millennials that own pets, you know what a big part of our lives our furry friends are. We all want the best for our pets, and this means big spending, with the US pet industry worth around $99 billion last year.
While many Millennials continue to delay parenthood, or eschew it altogether, they are spending billions on luxurious lifestyles for their pets. Evolving social attitudes mean the role of the pet is changing from furry companion to starter child, with the lifestyles of cats and dogs increasingly mirroring those of their owners.
Pet food aisles are stacked with natural, raw and organic choices, as brands seek to set themselves apart as the most wholesome option. Pet owners are often reluctant to change brands once they find one that works, so converting consumers can be challenging, pushing brands to find ever more creative ways to do this. Incorporating sound into marketing strategies is a key way for brands to stand out in this crowded sector.
Now for some of the best in show…
Noisy dog food
The Farmer’s Dog used sound to demonstrate the quality of their product with a campaign titled, ‘The Sound of Real Food’. The ads feature user-generated video content with a loud soundtrack of scoffs and grunts of the dogs enthusiastically enjoying the food, juxtaposed with Beethoven’s Symphony No 7: an orchestral, rallying soundtrack that builds to a crescendo throughout the ad.
It’s a fun and memorable piece, mixing the sloppy sounds of the happy dogs with the comedically high culture classical music reference to great effect.
Advert for dogs
Back in 2011, German brand Beneful broke new ground with the aim of using their adverts to speak directly to canines rather than customers. The ad incorporated a squeak to remind dogs of the sound of a chew toy, a high-frequency tone, similar to a dog whistle, which humans can barely hear, and a soft, high-pitched ‘ping’ which can be heard by dogs and people.
This direct pitch to dogs aimed to get dogs to react to the commercial, in turn creating a positive reaction from pet owners. In the highly competitive market of pet food it’s a smart way to own a point of difference.
Music for emotion
Our pets have a unique way of opening up our emotions, and when a heartwarming story is paired with appropriate music to heighten the already stirred emotions, it can be extremely effective in advertising. Emotional connection builds relationships with consumers, influencing long term memory and driving purchasing with intent.
PetCo’s Christmas ad from 2018, featuring a boy saving up for a bicycle, then using one of the wheels to create a makeshift mobility aif for his three-legged rescue dog is a great example of this, showing the emotional impact of the brand. The story is told entirely through visuals and music, with a charming custom piece of music bringing out the sentimentality of the ad.
Hill’s Pet Nutrition have taken a similar approach, using solely music and visuals in their latest campaign, “Poochini”. The brand has decided to make the content much more educational as well as emotive, choosing to raise awareness of the negative effects of feeding pets too many treats. With pet obesity on the rise, the ad takes a delicate approach to show that sometimes the bond with a dog is so strong that even the most committed pet parent might not realise their extra love is adding extra pounds.
Created with internet savvy meme-loving Millennials in mind, Iams have created a song that uses the sounds of dogs and cats as percussive and melodic elements, resulting in a lively and fun Pet Remix. As home videos of dogs and cats being their unique selves are displayed, Iams encourages you to feed the uniqueness inside your pet. The footage feels familiar and easily entertaining without feeling overly branded.
Pedigree make use of custom music to create their own Christmas carol, the Season of Good Dog, a rewrite of ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’ with canine-centric lyrics, while PetSmart have created an excellent version of ‘I’d Do Anything’ to showcase the irresistible bond we all have with our pets.
Life’s a Treat
Petbarn’s ongoing campaign, Life’s a Treat, makes use of a repeated jingle that is played whenever their logo is shown on screen. The energetic and uplifting track adds dimension and distinctiveness to the overall message.
Overall, in such a crowded market it is the brands that are willing to take risks and find new, meaningful ways to connect to customer’s emotions that will win against the big dogs. Pet ownership is naturally a highly emotive sector, so strengthening and leaning on this deeply rooted connection via sound and music is a great asset to brands looking to stand out.
The crossover between sonic branding and the pet industry still feels fairly new and unexplored, meaning there is a real opportunity for brave brands to claim this space as their own.