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In Clear Focus

Oct 25, 2019

In this first episode of In Clear Vision, Bigeye’s senior strategist Dana Cassell and VP of insights Adrian Tennant discuss findings from the 2019 US Pet Industry Study. Dana and Adrian break down emerging trends in pet parenting and the implications for pet product marketers as generational differences in device use impact engagement with advertisements.

Adrian Tennant: I'm your host, Adrian Tennant, VP of insights at Bigeye. For those of you who don't know us, Bigeye is an audience-focused, creative-driven, full-service advertising agency. We're based in Orlando, Florida, but serve clients across the United States and beyond, providing audience, research, branding, creative, media and analytics services. Thank you for choosing to spend time with us today for this episode. It's my pleasure to be joined by Dana Cassell, Bigeye's senior strategist. Dana has worked with Bigeye for almost a decade and focuses on consumer behavior, interpreting the results and findings from primary and secondary research. Dana synthesizes data into actionable insights that help Bigeye's clients build strategically differentiated brands. Welcome to IN CLEAR FOCUS, Dana.

Dana Cassell: Thank you. Glad to be here.

Adrian Tennant: Dana and I presented a webinar earlier today highlighting results from a study Bigeye conducted looking at the behaviors and attitudes of pet owners across the United States. For the study, we surveyed over 780 people on a wide range of topics related to pet products and services. You can download a free copy of the full report by going to And we'll include a link in the notes accompanying this podcast. We thought we'd take this opportunity to discuss some of the things we saw in the study results. But first I have to admit that I have both a professional and personal interest in the findings. I have two Maine Coon cats, Mango, and Polly, both four years old, plus a 29-gallon aquarium with various fish. Dana, I know that you're a pet parent too...

Dana Cassell: I am. We have Kona who has just turned one year old. She's a black lab and she's 78 pounds guys, she's a big girl - I know. And we also have an 11-year-old Tabby cat named Baxter. So they coexist well. And I have girls and they have over time had beta fish and also a few snails, which was new for me. But right now just that dog and cat.

Adrian Tennant: Well, we're going to talk a little bit about our own pets and consumer behavior in a minute. I know that subscription services were a topic of focus for this study. Dana, how do you think the pet industry can leverage the anticipated subscription trends in 2020 and beyond?

Dana Cassell: I think this is a great question. Do you have a subscription for your pets? Do you have any?

Adrian Tennant: I actually do not.

Dana Cassell: You don't. Okay. So we subscribe for food which I love for the dog cat and yeah, actually both. We subscribe to food for both, but that's the only one we have. But the trend for subscription services in 2020 - there's a few trend highlights that I think apply to the general world of subscription services but are also applicable here for pet. So a couple of things that we see coming down the pipeline in 2020 for subscriptions. The trend data shows that the best subscription boxes for 2020 will be ones that help meet needs, as opposed to just giving people more stuff. You know, there's certainly a trend in the zeitgeists right now of minimalism. Does it bring you joy? Kind of not having stuff for the sake of stuff. So, we suspect that in 2020 one of those trends will be quality over quantity. We also expect that male use of subscription services will be on the rise. Females were the early, and fastest adopters for subscription services and we expect that to kind of equalize next year. Also global expansion - so subscription services that have found success in the States will likely be expanding beyond our borders. And traditional retailers who have not gotten into subscriptions yet will likely venture in that direction. So we believe that quality will win out over quantity. We'll see a little bit of gender equalization and subscriptions and global expansion. So from our study, we learned actually there's this wide-open opportunity for people in the pet industry and subscription services. I thought this was really interesting. We learned that millennials are more likely than any other age segment to be subscription minded, but there's this opportunity among users ages 45 to 55 so I think this is interesting. While they're not currently the heavy subscribers in subscription, they might just be low hanging fruit. It might be a great opportunity for a brand for whom that's a great target to consider targeting with subscription services. So I think on this crowd I would consider selling benefits and not just features because, among this age group, they certainly are aware of subscription services and probably have some in their media selection. So there's likely a subscription to some streaming video for this age segment. So it's not that they need to understand what subscription is, but why that would benefit them. This audience is also more likely to give treats than any other age segment that we found in our survey and they prefer to engage with ads on TV. So maybe there's a little trifecta there of a subscription service to treats for pet owners in this area, engaging with them on TV through video. So I'm really interested to see what happens with subscription services in this age group.

Adrian Tennant: Mm. So the research suggested anyway that food is the primary category for owners who participate in pet subscription services right now. And how do you think brands who have food subscription clients could cross-sell other products to those current subscribers?

Dana Cassell: I like this question and on a personal basis, I mentioned we subscribed for food for both our dog and cat. So I'm thinking about myself and other products that we use in our home. So I just think there's a great opportunity to remind consumers what other products are available by subscription because I have a replenishment subscription, right? At the end of the month, our food bag is gone, or four months, four weeks for Kona, six weeks for Baxter. So at the end of that period, the food's gone and I need to replenish. But there are other things that are gone too - maybe the rawhide bone that Kona chews on. Maybe that catnip, that the Baxter likes has gone or you know, the bags that we use in the yard. So I think that retailers have an opportunity to find those pet food subscribers, use their online data for, to understand what other products those subscribers are generally purchasing and then offer them as an add on in the subscription.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. I think that's a great point. You know, I probably misspoke earlier because when you asked about subscriptions, I was thinking about one of those subscription box services, but actually I do subscribe but through, so my pet food is set up on a monthly subscription replenishment because I've got those two hungry Maine Coons, you'll remember, right. So I've actually outsourced the lifting of their food to the Amazon delivery guy at this point. Let's chat about CBD for a minute. We learned that 17% of pet owners are currently using CBD, but a whopping 42% would consider using it in the future. What's that telling us?

Dana Cassell: Well, it just to me, it seems like we're kind of on a threshold here where people are open to this with their pets. We have some early adopters, those tend to be in that younger age range, but we're kind of right on the precipice of maybe helping with some education, introducing products to these people who are likely adopters that they would be able to try, you know, find a space in their life that it makes sense for them to try. So there's a, there's a huge opportunity here and that 42% represents more than 35 million households in the United States that report being willing to try products. So it's a huge market.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah, it's interesting. You know, that age range, that is most likely to consider is the 35 to 44 age range, you know, and they're also the most likely to engage with CBD messaging on a smartphone.

Dana Cassell: Right. And so I think when we think about that age range, it makes sense that smartphones, the place to find them, we know that they're likely to consider. So what are the key messages? And I think when a brand is considering trying to reach these 35 to 44-year-olds about CBD, they have to think about why they'd be likely to use CBD on their pets. And our research uncovered that 37% don't use but would consider CBD products if their pets had anxiety or stress issues. And we also uncovered in this study that a lot of that anxiety and stress is related to pets being left alone. So this age demographic is generally in the workforce. So they are likely to have pets that are left home during the day while they're at work. We also found that 57% of people who don't use CBD but would consider it for their pets, would consider it for nausea, seizures, cancer, and GI issues. So it seems like there's a great opportunity to find pet owners that have pets with these issues. And talk about the benefits of using CBD to alleviate some of these kind of, they're not exactly, you know, nausea. This is not exactly like a chronic issue, but maybe something their pet experiences from time to time.

Adrian Tennant: Yeah. And I think we saw that, interestingly, the older owners were least likely to be using CBD right now. But I've seen in the human world that actually older adults are becoming more interested in CBD for their own aches and pains. So is it a messaging issue? We haven't quite bridged that gap yet.

Dana Cassell: I think that might be it. I think we have an education threshold here, maybe particularly among that older market that's willing but hasn't yet used it.

Adrian Tennant: Hmm. That's a great point. So let's talk about video and how pet-focused brands can stretch their video dollars to maximize video content production.

Dana Cassell: Yeah, this was a really interesting through-line in this study. So a few video-related stats... Videos, video ads produced for display on smartphones are the most likely to resonate with millennial pet owners - that might not come as a surprise. But the 45 plus segment leans toward television as their preferred device for engaging with ads. Also, when asked what form of advertisements they generally prefer to engage with for all audiences, TV came in first at 41% followed by video at 21% so what I'm hearing here is that video is a must across all age ranges in this category. And we have to be sophisticated about the way we design, cut, and format that video content. So if we have a brand that is ready to invest in high-quality television because they know that their market is saying that this is the platform where they generally prefer to engage with ads, they know that their target market is here. They know that they can tell their brand story well through video. They have an opportunity to be strategic about the way they cut and design that. So we produce a high-quality TV ad and then we can cut that for social content, display ads, blog content, email content, motion graphics. So it's a real, it's a shortcut to an incredibly high-quality video library that pet brands in 2020 cannot afford to ignore. I love the strategy of producing for TV and using that content over and over for this high-quality library.

Adrian Tennant: I think one of the interesting aspects about what you've just said for sure is that video is also the medium that's most likely to resonate emotionally. And so I think what we're seeing and feeling in some ways is that these pet parents, you know, are super engaged. The most engaged pet parents are seeing their pets as kids. I've just to say that. So, you know, do we want very rational based, advertising or is it an emotion that we're trying to convey and I kind of feel like there's lots of room for emotional advertising here.

Dana Cassell: I agree. I agree with you.

Dana Cassell: Okay. So I know you've dived really deep into the data and there are some concepts that you just have to get out.

Dana Cassell: Yeah, that's right. There's this one idea that kind of keeps coming back to me. So if we look at all the most compelling points of the data and kind of mashed them into this super plan, I sort of would love to see a CBD product for pets that has anti-nausea or anti-seizure benefits targeted toward pet owners aged 45 plus. Those are the ones most willing to try. Available by subscription, promoted on TV over the top and on smartphone display with compelling video and maybe potentially a veterinary endorsement, which we know is important. And that's a project I want because first of all, I believe in it because the data points to that being a wide-open opportunity. And also I would just love to watch the data on that campaign and see how this audience interacts with video, how that kind of dual hit of TV versus over the top over to smartphone. It's a nice multichannel plan with a product that is clearly we're right on the edge. So this is my, this is my master plan. I think we should do it.

Adrian Tennant: The master plan. So any of you listening that has a CBD product in the works for pets or is thinking about producing one? You heard it here first. We have a plan ready to roll.

Dana Cassell: Ready to go.

Adrian Tennant: Okay. So we learned that 95% of pet owners in our study consider their pets are part of the family. What else does that tell us about how we view our pets?

Dana Cassell: Yeah, I love this. Obviously just as a pet owner, I can relate to that idea and the idea that so many people are humanizing their pets made me start thinking about the parallels between Bigeye's mom marketing efforts and our pet industry clients. I think I mentioned that on the webinar. It was like something I was kind of chomping to really talk about. Although we were just presenting data then it's a good time now. So through the years, we've done a ton of research around consumer behavior and attitudes of moms and we know a lot about the things that moms value in messaging. So this is by no means a deep dive, but I went back to a few of our older research studies on moms and read about the core values that we uncovered that I think there are parallels between. So we are confident because the data has shown that moms value safety meaning helpfulness and reliability. Now helpfulness and subscription services seem to me like right in line. Safety is important. So this isn't an interesting idea for the CBD line. As we're introducing CBD products to pets, we need to make sure that the safety message is there because people care about their pets. They're part of the family. I'm choosing to give my pet a supplement. I want to be confident that that's a safe choice. In another one of our studies, we ask moms how old a child should be before a family introduces a pet to the household and 42% said ages two through seven. I think it's really interesting to think about the major decisions a family might be making when their kids are ages two through seven. They may be considering another baby. They're picking out childcare, they're selecting an elementary school. They might be making a decision about a partner staying home from work for a while and they're apparently also considering adding a new pet. It's a lot of big decision making in one home during this window. And I believe that that's a great opportunity for a pet brand. It's a good insight into the minds of people who may be adding pets or introducing pets to homes. I think it's a good opportunity for a brand to exhibit an understanding of the weight of that stage. And it gives people an opportunity to connect with these families on a deeper level. So if a pet brand were to understand kind of the context of the home and the shifting that's happening at home when a pet is coming, it might engage with these, you know, moms on a, on a deeper level.

Adrian Tennant: That's so interesting. Um, I have certainly found and observed in previous studies that I've conducted, the one of the best opportunities a brand has to connect with a consumer is during a major change of life stage. That's because really the job that we're doing most of the time is to nudge people towards behavior change. And there are some times of people's lives when we have their ear more than other times. So these kind of life stage events are critically important for us as marketers to make, to show empathy and to have that deeper level of understanding because we're inviting, we're asking people to invite our products and brands into their lives. So I think that's a really interesting parallel between moms and pet parents.

Dana Cassell: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I think having when you think about where moms turn for opinions on choices, there's a high level of confidence and expertise. So when you're picking out, you know, referral, endorsement when you're picking out and making choices for your children. So I think in this pet industry too, we need to remember that that endorsement, the quality of our brand, being positioned as an expert, a generous expert with our knowledge is important. You know, being a reputable company that stands behind our products, understands our market, is generous with our understanding of the environment is only going to increase our, confidence that our consumers have in our brand.

Adrian Tennant: If I can take that one step further. You know, we found that younger pet parents were the most engaged of all groups and we saw that they were over-indexing on the purchase of pet costumes. I did note that 11% of all of our respondents were buying apparel on a regular basis. The mind boggles. Do they have like a closet for the... I don't know...

Dana Cassell: Tiny hangers?

Adrian Tennant: Hey, new product development idea! But interestingly we did not see in that younger group any difference between the likelihood of a male respondent versus a female respondent. So if we extend this pet parenting metaphor for a moment, do you think that reflects a kind of a similar generational approach that young, you know, the younger families are taking where mom and dad kind of share the duties and I mean I might be extending this way too far, but do you think there's something in that?

Dana Cassell: It's an interesting parallel and this is why I think it, I really am interested in now that we've completed our pet study to do more correlation or comparison of the data from moms study in the past to this study because we did not see a significant statistical difference in the way that men and women responded in our pet study.

Adrian Tennant: That's correct.

Dana Cassell: I'm talking about mom marketing, but I really might be talking to your point about parent marketing and whether those children have two legs or four

Adrian Tennant: Or fins, thank you. Or scales, or hooves.

Dana Cassell: All pets included.

Adrian Tennant: All pets. Okay. So through the study, we obviously uncovered several interesting data points related to geolocation...

Dana Cassell: Right. So, yeah, as a strategist, I'm always interested in these like unique little pockets of in the country or in a city or in a town where there's something indexing higher, like what's going on and how can we leverage that for the brands that we represent. So of course, I also love geolocation because it's super interesting to be able to target by unique geography in digital environments. So this is one of my favorite things to uncover in data. So here's a couple stats from this study related to geolocation. Pet adoption is most common in the West, in suburbs and in two-person households. So I, those are just like tiny, interesting tidbits. If you're working on targeting for an adoption service or even in a nonprofit, you know, if you're trying to increase engagement with folks, this is low hanging fruit, suburban two-family households in the West. If you have to decide where you're spending your dollars, start here. We also learned that the most generous pet owners live in the South where 36% of those spending $200 or more a month on pets are located. So I like this too. If you have a product that is a bit more high end or if you're trying to increase, like we talked earlier about pet food subscription and maybe adding a product every so often to that box, maybe start there, find some big cities in the South, where our data points people are a bit more generous and let's just start there. It's a good place to start thinking about trying new messages. If you want to throw a little test campaign onto your existing digital plan, use the data to help you figure out where to start. Oh, how about this one? 32% of owners who employ pet walking services live in the Northeast. I think this is, this is an interesting one. People, who are likely to hire pet walkers, what else are they likely to do? And so I just, I love those little tidbits about, you know, where people are living in the country and what they might be more likely to do. I especially love it when we're trying to find, when we're trying to test some things, sort of throwing some darts, putting a couple of rings around some areas with the data.

Adrian Tennant: Mmm. I think that's great. I have a feeling, Dana, that we're going to be talking about pets and CBD and moms quite a lot in the future.

Dana Cassell: I think so.

Adrian Tennant: I think for right now that's probably all we've got time for. So I'd like to thank you, Dana Cassell, senior strategist at Bigeye, for being our guest today.

Dana Cassell: Thanks for having me.

Adrian Tennant: You've been listening to IN CLEAR FOCUS, a unique perspective on the business of advertising produced by Bigeye. If you have questions about the content of today's show, please contact us at You'll also find a transcript of today's show and a link to download a copy of the full 2019 US Pet Industry Study on our website, at I'm Adrian Tennant. Thank you for listening and until next time, goodbye.