We’re Dog Crazy

As the largest pet owning generation to date, we set out to better understand today’s pet parents and their needs from brands

Millennials & Their Fur Babies:
3 Things Dog Brands Need to Know

Here at Camp + King, we’re factually dog-crazy. Dogs are part of our agency ID—and at one point, even in our email signatures. Given our collective obsession with dogs, we wanted to create an intersection of our love for dogs and our strategic muscle. So we set out to do trends research on dogs and pet parents—including both third party data and our own proprietary research.

There’s a collection of reasons Millennials have been deemed the most pet-crazy generation of all. They’re famously “delaying” life stages, like getting married and buying homes, compared to the generations preceding them. And women are having kids later, if at all. Because of this, pets, and dogs in particular, now play a bigger role in Millennial’s lives than ever before. Not only do they own more pets than any other generational cohort, but 76% of Millennials see their pets as “beloved family members.”

Prior to the pandemic, dogs were already a point of generational identity for Millennials. And COVID only amplified this further with people spending more time at home, The ASPCA saw a 70% increase in adoptions in April of 2020 over the same period last year. A study from Mira-Pet shows that 73% of people reported that having a pet helped them stay sane during lockdown and, perhaps most surprising, was that 38% said they’d take a pay cut if that allowed them to continue working from home solely so they could stay with their pets.

There’s a whole slew of new pet parents out there looking to navigate the wonderful world that is pet ownership and introduce new pet brands into their life. As a collection of pet-obsessed folks ourselves, Camp + King decided to dive in and understand Millennial pet parents a little more to help brands stand out.

1. Millennials Acknowledge & Celebrate Their Crazy

Keeping their dogs happy and thriving is a Millennial priority. Thirty-three percent of Millennial home buyers’ decision to buy a home was driven chiefly by their dog. Dogs outranked getting married (25%) and having kids, too (only 19% of Millennials said the birth of a child was their prime incentive). Of those pet-owning Millennial homebuyers, 79% said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn’t meet the needs of their pets. And once Millennials do purchase a home, they often invest in upgrades just for their pets.

Plus:

  • 91% of Millennials in committed relationships who have pets consider these pets their “de facto” children.
  • 92% of Millennial pet parents would rather spend time with their pet than their spouse, parents, and friends combined.
  • 76% of Millennials are more likely to splurge on an item for their pet than they would for themselves.

With dogs playing a bigger role in Millennials’ lives than ever before, and given Millennials’ love for dogs running so deep, culturally Millennials are proudly celebrating this irrational level of dog love. Millennial social feeds are filled with memes, like this one, that proudly exemplify that dogs are more important than anything else. And Millennials are quick to refer to their dogs as their “fur babies” – with 67% of Millennial pet owners see their pet as a ‘fur baby.

2. Their Dog Food Choices are Just as Important as Their Own Food Choices

Millennials have prioritized wellness in various areas of their life, with food as one of their main points of focus - nearly 50% consider themselves foodies! (source) They’ve shifted their definition of “healthy eating” too - from counting calories and fat content to seeking out food that is fresh, less processed, and with fewer artificial ingredients.

Naturally, the way Millennials think about food—and their focus on wellness—is impacting how they think about their dogs’ diets too. Millennials care just as much about natural and organic foods for their dogs, as they do for themselves, and in some cases more:

  • 75% of Millennials purchase organic food for themselves for health reasons, and 78% purchase organic food for their dog for health reasons.
  • 81% of Millennials believe “natural / fresh food is vital” for themselves, while 86% of Millennials believe “natural / fresh food is vital” for their pet.

It’s no surprise then that 92% of Millennial pet owners are just as concerned about their pet’s health as they are about their own health.

Interested in digging deeper into Millennials’ concern for their dogs’ wellness and how that impacts their purchase behavior, we fielded a quantitative survey of 550 Millennial dog parents who purchase kibble to learn more about them and their buy habits. One piece we found particularly interesting, the top 5 things Millennial pet parents find motivating and unique when it comes to choosing a dog food brand:

  1. Meat is the #1 ingredient
  2. Made in the USA
  3. Sourced from farmers we know and trust
  4. Minimally processed
  5. Enriched with vitamins, minerals, nutrients

3. There’s An Opportunity for the Dog Category to Better Speak to Pet Parents

Most dog food brands fall into two overarching brand categories, which you’d probably recognize. The first is illustrated by the happy, healthy dog – because who doesn’t want that! With these brands, you’ll notice overused, stock-like photography of happy dogs, plus generic health claims, like “wholesome ingredients” and “added vitamins for health benefits.” The brands often feature images of bountiful, real foods on their packaging.

The second category of dog food brands leans heavily into the science behind their food and how “biologically appropriate” it is for your dog. More often than not, these brands compare dogs to their wild ancestors, utilizing visuals of wolves and claims like, “nature’s evolutionary diet.” Packaging for these brands features stats, like “85% wild-caught fish ingredients” and “90% of protein from animal ingredients.”

Because the majority of dog food brands fall into one of these two overarching categories—happy, health pet or science + nature—their products sound the same and once meaningful claims are now table stakes. More importantly, these two groups offer little for Millennial dog owners to connect with emotionally.

In closing…

Millennials are making monumental life decisions with their dogs’ best interest in mind. And they’re willing to go to the same lengths to keep their dog happy and healthy as they are for themselves—if not further. There’s an opportunity here for pet brands to reach this audience in a new way, and to demonstrate to Millennials that they’re just as dog crazy.

Heather joined Camp + King nearly five years ago, and since that time, she has worked on various accounts across the agency and executed numerous creative campaigns for clients such as Energizer, DISH, prAna and Uber Freight. As a Brand Director, Heather brings invaluable brand management experience from agencies large and small (and from coast to coast).

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