The market for pet products is enormous and continues to grow. Fifty six percent of households in the United States own at least one pet, and consumers in the US spent over 72 billion dollars on pet products and services in 2018.
And it only takes a few minutes spent in conversation with a pet owner to know one thing: they really, really love their pets.
Pet owners want the absolute best for their fur (or feather!) babies, and they will spend extra money on a product if they feel they are getting exceptional value in return.
Whether your business sells dog food or cat toys, colorful leashes or healthy bird seed, cat costumes or dog strollers, your business needs a strong brand to communicate your value and stand out from the crowded pet market.
Small and medium-sized business often start by piecing their brands together: an Instagram filter here, a tagline there, a few key colors placed on the website. The early “all hands on deck!” stages of a startup are exciting, but typically businesses hit a point when they need to look at their branding through a more strategic lens and craft a visual identity that will carry them to the next level of their business.
If your pet brand has reached a cap on its potential, or if you aren’t attracting the types of customers you really want, then it’s time to develop a cohesive brand strategy that will guide your visual designs, colors, fonts, imagery, and content.
Here is an all-inclusive guide to developing a pet brand that will grow your audience, turn strangers into loyal customers, and ultimately scale your business.
The Key to Pet Brand Success: Your Brand Attributes
No matter how long your pet product company has been in business, it’s never too late to improve or recreate your business’s brand.
The first step to implementing a strong pet product brand is to define the brand attributes of your business. Brand attributes are the characteristics that your audience sees as a fundamental part of your brand.
Let’s say your brand was a person, and that person walks into a bar. They make an impression with their outfit, speak to some new people, tell a few stories, and leave.
How would people describe that person after they left?
More importantly: how do you want people to describe your brand when you’re not in the room?
Your answers to those questions will point you in the direction of your company’s brand attributes.
I recommend that my clients start by identifying four or five core brand attributes for their business. Some marketing elements such as social media platform trends will change over time and force your business to evolve; however, the brand attributes of your company will not change unless you choose to pivot and undergo a rebrand.
Because a company’s brand attributes remain consistent over time, they serve as the foundation of the entire brand. Your marketing and design team will express these brand attributes in different ways as your business discovers what strategies work best to attract your ideal customers.
How to Identify Your Brand Attributes: Step by Step
Here is a simple exercise to help you identify your pet product company’s brand attributes:
- Brainstorm a list of words that describe your brand’s culture. How would your employees describe your company? What is your brand’s big vision?
- Make a second list of words, and this time come up with attributes of your potential customers. Do they care deeply about dog collar safety? Do they wish their cat could play fetch? How would you describe them?
- Create a third list of words, and this time your list will include desired emotions that your customers experience after using your product. Are they thrilled because they finally found a safe alternative to catnip? Are they relaxed because they know their puppy is in good hands?
- Make a fourth (and final!) list of words that describes your company’s brand voice. Does your pet product business sound trendy, medical, professional, fun-loving, or something else?
- Lastly, look through the previous four lists you made and identify the strongest word in each list. These four words are your core brand attributes.
While every business will have distinct brand attributes, there are some industry-specific guidelines that your company may want to take into consideration when narrowing down your brand attributes. When it comes to pet products, consumers think about the following:
- Is your brand trustworthy and safe? Customers want to feel that their pets will be secure and unharmed when using your product.
- Is your brand warm, compassionate, or positive? Pet owners have extremely positive emotional associations with their pets, and your brand can mirror those happy emotions.
- Is your brand aimed at luxury, medium, or affordable pricing? There are plentiful pet owners at every price point, but if you want to tailor your products towards one of these segments, your visual branding is a great place to do that.
Do you need further support on narrowing down the brand attributes for your business? Contact us to schedule a consultation – the Aventive Studio team can make your pet industry brand shine.
Expressing Your Company’s Brand Attributes
We’re about to dive into the nitty-gritty of how to express your brand attributes through your company’s content and visuals, but the most important rule of brand strategy is: let your brand attributes be the North Star of everything.
Companies who we think of as having a strong brand (such as Uber, Starbucks, and Coca Cola) maintain that status by staying “on brand” at every moment. These companies only post, share, and create things that are aligned with their brand attributes.
Some businesses, like Starbucks, engage in socially conscious initiatives because their brand has a strong focus on community. Other companies, like Nike, aren’t afraid to wade into politics because Nike is known for being disruptive. These actions are not taken spontaneously, but rather with the consideration of each company’s respective brand attributes.
Brand Attributes Example: PetSafe
PetSafe is a manufacturer of pet products, and the company creates anything from litter boxes and feeders to pet doors, fencing, potty training products, and more. Because of this diverse assortment of products, PetSafe could have gone in a variety of different directions with its branding.
However, PetSafe focuses on the brand attribute of safety to tie all of their offerings together. This is immediately evident from the company’s brand name, but if you visit the PetSafe website you will notice that their branding emphasizes a feeling of safety and security in both the visuals and words used:
Pet Branding Visuals: Colors, Shapes, and Packaging
Now that you’ve identified the unique brand attributes for your company, it’s time to visually express your brand through colors, shapes, and visual design.
Keep in mind that when it comes to purchasing pet products, your customers have one overarching concern: the health, safety, and happiness of their pets. No matter how incredible your product is or how long you have been in business, it is imperative that your pet brand looks legitimate and professional. A brand that looks too new or DIY will not feel trustworthy to your audience of concerned pet parents.
Visual branding (colors shapes, fonts, and imagery) is the first thing to catch a customer’s eye and influence their subconscious impression of your business. With a basic understanding of visual design and psychology principles, you can identify the gaps in your branding and generate ideas of how to express your brand attributes more effectively.
Using Shapes in Pet Branding
Whether or not the general public is aware, part of a designer’s job is to strategically use colors and shapes to prompt desired emotions in viewers.
When it comes to using shapes in your business’s branding, as a general rule of thumb:
- Straight lines (squares, rectangles, and triangles) represent reliability, seriousness, and security.
- Curved lines (circles) evoke feelings of harmony, wholeness, movement, and femininity.
Pet product brands can choose to use either of these options depending on their brand attributes. The next time you find yourself in a pet store, take notice of which brands use straight shapes and which brands use curved shapes. Both methods can work to your advantage – it just depends on the brand attributes you want customers to feel for your specific products.
For a more in-depth look at shape, color, and placement psychology, read our blog post here.
Notice how the healthy pet food brand Nulo uses curved lines and circular shapes to create a positive, trustworthy, and soothing affect in its logo and packaging:
The Nulo logo is stylized, simple, and memorable – and because it isn’t too complicated, this logo can be easily replicated on a variety of mediums such as billboards, shopping bags, website icons, and more. The N, U, and L in the logo all have curved edges, and a rounded heart speaks to the love that pet owners have for their furry friends,
In addition, each package of food includes a simple description of what specific type of dog or cat should be using that particular food (e.g. Adult, Puppy, Indoor Cat, Senior):
This added level of personalization helps consumers choose among many options and makes buyers feel safe, special, and like their pet is in good hands.
Using Colors in Pet Branding
When it comes to selecting the colors of your pet product brand, it’s important to step into the mind of your ideal client and remind yourself of how they want to feel after using your product. Refer to the brand attributes you selected above for your business, then look into some basic research around color psychology to match what colors reflect those attributes.
Warmer colors like orange, pink, yellow, and red tend to represent more energetic emotions like happiness, anger, and creativity. Cooler colors like green, purple, and blue tend to evoke more calming and relaxed emotions. However, this all depends on the shade, tone, and placement next to other colors in the brand’s palette.
Feliway is a pet brand that makes stress-relieving products for cats, and they strategically use the color purple in their branding. Purple can spark a variety of emotions, such as creativity and luxury, but one of its potential attributes is that purple can calm the nerves and trigger relaxation.
Feliway’s products all serve the purpose of helping reduce anxiety in cats, so their company’s potential customers are seeking a solution to their stressed-out cats (who might do things like hide, scratch furniture, or spray as a stress response). By using purple as their brand’s prominent color, Feliway sparks feelings of relaxation in its human customers who are hoping for improved peace of mind for both themselves and their cats.
If your business is unsure of what brand colors to use, the professional guidance of a brand strategist will help you pinpoint the colors, shapes, and imagery that will resonate most strongly with your target audience.
Expressing Your Pet Brand’s Personality
Even though customers are primarily concerned with the safety and happiness of their pet, you can still have fun with the visual branding of your pet business. The people opening up their wallets to buy your products are real-life humans who may be drawn to humor, pop culture, and seasonal ideas which you can incorporate in the social media, website, and content marketing for your pet business.
For example: It’s safe to assume that cats don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, Halloween, birthdays, or big movie releases. But that doesn’t stop pet brands from creating Thanksgiving cat food, Halloween cat costumes, cat birthday garland, or Star Wars pet toys.
Your brand attributes will determine how much personality to showcase in your brand. If one of the brand attributes for your business is “serious” because your company sells medical products for pets, you would likely want to avoid deviating too far into wacky and whimsical branding ideas.
But if your brand voice is more relaxed, then you can have fun experimenting with holiday-themed products, back to school sales, holiday products, and lighthearted copywriting taglines. Meowington’s is an incredible example of a pet brand that showcases quirkiness and humor when marketing its products for cats and humans.
Social Media for Pet Brands
Have you noticed that when you ask someone “Do you have any pictures of your dog?” it takes that person about 0.05 seconds to whip out their phone and show you their stash of dog photos?
Maybe they show you a lock screen picture of their dog playing on a beach. Maybe you see a recent snapshot of their puppy sitting on the couch looking cute. Maybe you receive a Christmas card with a family photo that includes all the pets.
Whether your business appeals to dog lovers, cat people, fish enthusiasts, hedgehog experts, or any other animal niche, one thing is certain: your customers love cute pictures of pets.
Keep this at the top of your mind when you create social media content. The captions you use, videos you create, and informational articles you share will all depend on the specifics of your product and brand attributes, but photos of pets will always make your customers smile and can be used liberally.
Here are some other industry-specific ideas to consider including in your social media and content marketing:
- Reviews provide social proof that your pet products are trustworthy, so it’s important to consistently share customer testimonials as part of your content strategy.
- Quote images or memes. Consider your brand voice before posting memes, but for some brands this strategy can entertain your audience and capture their interest.
- Product photography. Invest in professional photos of your products in order to make an impression on visually-centered platforms like Instagram.
- Behind-the-scenes content. Humans are curious and we love to peek behind the curtain to see things like the founder of the company, the production process, and your own pet dog who hangs out at your office.
- Links to informational articles. Bonus points if these articles and resources are written by your company with the intent to educate and build trust with your audience.
PetHonesty does a fantastic job of interspersing varying photographs and quote images on their business’s Instagram feed:
Website Design for Pet Brands
Your website is the ultimate portal to your pet brand. You could have 10,000 raving positive reviews, you could have the best product on the planet… but if curious customers show up to your business website and find a mish-mash of colors, slow loading times, and a confusing buying process, you will lose their interest.
A strong and branded website will reinforce a sense of trust and safety with your customers – and remember, trust and safety are the highest priorities for your target market. Here are some rules of thumb and industry-specific ideas to make sure your website shines a positive spotlight on your brand:
Website Design Basics
If you pieced together your website in a frenzy while scaling your startup, that’s perfectly okay – many entrepreneurs take this route at first!
But as you work to build your pet brand and attract more customers, it’s important to take a critical look at your website to ensure that it reflects the branding and professionalism that you have worked so hard to build over time.
Effective websites need to be appealing, pleasing to the eye, easy to follow, and functional on all devices such as tablets, phones, laptops, and desktops. The user experience must be easy for new visitors to understand, and the website needs to load quickly – otherwise viewers lose interest and click to another page.
When it comes to pet brands, some of the same rules of social media apply to website design. Most importantly, remember that your customers love animals and they love testimonials. They need to deeply trust your product before they move forward with a purchase, so for a pet brand it is imperative to display your reviews and testimonials prominently rather than tucking them all away on a side page.
Here are a few ideas that will help you refresh your pet product website:
- Domain name. This should match your company name and be easy to remember and understand. If someone meets you at a farmer’s market but loses your business card, you want them to be able to type in your company’s name and easily find your website. Avoid hyphens or long strings of words when possible.
- Search engine optimization (SEO). Your startup may not be able to compete with Petco, PetSmart, and other giant brands when it comes to name recognition; however, with some keyword research and a strong content strategy you can work to improve your website’s rankings in search engines such as Google. When a customer searches for your niche product like “safe alternative to catnip,” you want your website to be one of the first options that shows up on their screen.
- Evaluate the text on your website and ensure it is all targeted towards your customers. While 5-paragraph stories about how we started our businesses may be fun for us to write, the truth is that most of your site visitors will have a “what’s in it for me?” mentality – so it’s important that your website text speaks directly and immediately to their desires, curiosities, and pain points.
The #1 rule of selling products online is: make it as easy as possible for your customers to buy from you.
If customers have the ability to order products directly from your website, your task is to make this buying process as streamlined and uncomplicated as possible. Continuously seek outside feedback on what could be added or removed to make it easier. For example, requiring new customers to create an account can be off-putting to first-time buyers who don’t want to remember yet another password.
To encourage customer loyalty, consider creating a rewards program where customers can earn product or shipping discounts. These kinds of rewards programs are particularly useful if your business sells products that customers will need to purchase repeatedly like food, treats, or cat litter.
The home page of your business’s website should have an obvious place where visitors can sign up to receive your email newsletter.
For product brands, offering a discount or coupon code in exchange for their email address is a popular and effective way to build your email list and introduce customers to your products. If someone is teetering on the edge of potentially making their first purchase, that simple coupon can be the catalyst that gets them to buy your product – and potentially become a long-term customer.
KitNipBox is a monthly subscription box for cats that includes treats, toys, and other fun products for cats and their owners. TheKitNipBox website provides this simple branded pop-up window where customers can enter their email for a 15% discount:
A best practice for pet startups is to email your customers consistently – which doesn’t necessarily mean constantly. Your company’s unique email marketing strategy will depend on a number of factors including the size of your team.
If you have a small team and can’t send out emails as frequently as you would like, that’s okay: just send an email newsletter every two weeks. If you have a full-fledged content team and want to email your list more often, you can absolutely experiment and find the frequency that works best for your team and your customers.
Websites can serve a variety of different purposes which include educating and entertaining visitors, motivating purchasing, and building brand awareness. The unique content that you create for your website is the special sauce that demonstrates your brand voice to potential customers.
Content is an overarching term that includes many different mediums such as blog posts, podcasts, videos, TV shows, radio shows, and more. When deciding what types of content to create for your pet brand, first consider who your target customers are and what mediums of content they prefer.
Many business owners make the common branding mistake of focusing on what they personally prefer: “My favorite color is yellow, so my primary brand color is yellow. I love podcasts, so of course we’re starting a podcast!” But at the end of the day, your brand needs to be designed with your target customers in mind at all times – so if your ideal customers listen to podcasts, or if they watch videos, or if they read blog posts on Medium, then these are the places your brand should show up.
Here are some content ideas to share on your pet product website and beyond:
- Case studies. Did your company’s innovative bird cage cover help a pet owner (and her birds!) get better sleep? Did your dog training clicker make obedience school significantly easier for one of your customers? Highlight these success stories by featuring them as a case study in blog posts, videos, or podcast episodes for your business.
- Educational content. Take the most common objections you hear from customers and turn them into educational blog posts or an FAQ section of your website. For example, you can write an informative blog post called “How to Train Your Cat to Play Fetch” and share a link to your cutting-edge cat training program at the end of the article.
- To shake things up and display your content in a creative and visual way, consider making an infographic. Websites like Venngage and Piktochart have templates to help you make your own, or you can hire a designer to make custom infographics which will ensure the fonts, colors, and voice match your brand strategy.
Unleashing Your Brand
Why did you originally launch your pet brand?
Did you want to make a difference in the lives of pet owners? Solve a problem your cat was experiencing? Add a little pizzazz to the boring world of dog collars?
As you tweak the content and colors and visuals for your business, and as you express your company’s brand attributes, don’t be surprised if your “why” starts to feel stronger. Tapping into the underlying attributes of your brand and identifying what makes it memorable will rejuvenate a feeling of excitement and commitment to getting your products in front of the people who crave them.
A successful brand is built methodically step-by-step, and it’s time to step forward with your new and remarkable pet brand. As you work through the exercises above, remember to refer to your brand attributes frequently – they will cast the deciding vote on all of your branding decisions.
If your business would benefit from the personalized expertise of a brand strategist, visit the Aventive Studio website here to explore our portfolio, view our services, and book a consultation.