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The Awakening of Animal Anthropomorphism

by Paren Patel , 27.02.2014

As reported in the Journal of Current Biology,  dogs are far more attuned to human emotions than previously thought. These deep emotional links perhaps explain why consumers seem to attribute human characteristics and behaviours to their pets, and why marketers are responding with products and services to suit. We foresee that this trend is only set to grow around the world, and therefore an understanding of global pet owners could prove rewarding.

A recent GfK blog talked of how pet owners are taking more health-conscious decisions when selecting pet food. As a result, sales are increasing for grain-free food that claims to be better for the digestive systems of cats and dogs and to reduce the incidence of allergies. To understand what these practitioners of “animal anthropomorphism” look to purchase for their pets, it makes sense to look at their own food preferences. GfK Roper Reports® Worldwide offers comprehensive profiling data on owners of cats, dogs and other pets in over 25 markets around the world, which can help identify areas of opportunity in this dynamic market.

Tying in with the grain-free example above, we find that 37% of consumers in developed markets who have a dog or cat agree that they feel under pressure to feed themselves and their family healthy meals, compared to 30% of those who have no pets.  We also find that 25% of global consumers with a dog/cat have a drink or snack in café, bar or pub weekly or more often, compared to 16% of consumers with no pets, which suggests an opportunity to offer pet snacks alongside displays of baked goods, crisps, and other human snacks.

There are many great examples of how companies are already tapping into this trend in the pet market. For instance, the popular American burger joint Shake Shack features a dish made especially for dogs, coined as ‘treats for those with four feet.’ This includes a takeaway version, the ‘Bag O’ Bones’  and an eat-in version, the ‘Pooch-ini,’ which consists of red velvet dog biscuits, peanut butter sauce and vanilla custard from Bocce’s Bakery.  This bakery is mentioned by name on the menu as it is well known amongst American dog-lovers, famous for its all-natural, gourmet dog biscuits featuring flavours such as beef bourguignon and cordon bleu.

We’re also seeing the trend of self-quantification moving into the pet care market with the introduction of collars that can monitor and track pets’ activities, including daily mileage and calories burned and the ability to share this information on social media.  Products that are already in the market or are set to be released soon include Whistle, FitBark and Voyce.

With a growing number of middle-class consumers in emerging markets, an increasing number of consumers are choosing to invest in a pet.  Brazil, for example, is on track to becoming the second-largest pet-care market in the world by 2016 after the USA.   It is nearly evitable that animal anthropomorphism will grow worldwide, providing even more opportunities for the care of our furry, feathered and other friends.