Thursday, February 12, 2009

dogs don't shop

that willy... i swear, a pair of glasses and a haircut and he could be ed begley, jr. except slightly less bizarre.

but he is an ever-present reminder of one of my favorite marketing stories, called "dogs don't shop." it's a little fable about market segmentation, and how sometimes even smart marketers miss the basics. it goes something like this:

once upon a time, there was a dog food company (willy would say, "oh boy! oh boy! mom, go work there! maybe you'll get free product! maybe i can come to work with you and I can get free product!). and the marketers at the dog food company have produced a new type of dog food, one that is lower-calorie and intended for overweight dogs. and the marketers are talking about how their segmentation should thus follow that path -- they should now come up with line extensions, for thin dogs, and maybe old dogs, and young dogs, and pregnant dogs, and dogs with various kinds of health problems, etc. the entire conversation turned on what different kinds of dogs there are and what those dogs need. by the end of the meeting, they've got a segmentation wheel full of potential targets based on dogs.

and that's the problem. DOGS DON'T SHOP. (well, sometimes willy thinks he's shopping, but that's only because we usually agree on what he should have at the local pet smart).

who shops? DOG OWNERS. and are they more likely to be motivated by the dogs needs, or by their relationship with the dog? if you have a dog, you know it's the latter.

so this caused the marketers to re-evaluate, and come up with a segmentation schematic that actually addresses the real targets and the real buying motive, PEOPLE AND HOW THEY FEEL ABOUT THEIR DOG. this became:

dog as dog -- people (and shame on them) who stake their dogs outside, and have them sleep in doghouses.

dog as pet -- people who include their dogs as family members, but they better not get up on the sofa.

dog as child -- come on up on the sofa, girl. that's right, snuggle right up next to your daddy.

and, finally, dog as grandchild. these are the dogs that are getting all kinds great bling like $350 hermes collars and custom-made dog furniture from the pampered puppy.

next time you go to the pet store, look in your cart and see which target you are!

by the way, willy's advice on the subject is to check out this great list of other reasons why dogs are better than men -- or women.


4legged said...

I was thinking along the same lines today while hunting for a Valentine's Day card for Dad. Naturally, he gets a card from me, and a card from Chuck, but he also gets a card from the 4-legged menagerie.

Well, there are no cards to grandpa from the grand-dogs, and I ask "why not"?

People who have dogs as children, and regard them as 4-legged, furry children who can't speak clearly, also need to send Valentine's Day (and Birthday, and Christmas, and Thanksgiving) cards to their family members.

If the truth be told, I think Dad's grand-dogs are more demonstrative than his grandchildren. They're always so excited when he comes to visit, they can hardly stand still. They follow him around like, well, like puppies. It might have something to do with the fact that he caves in and feeds them from his plate as soon as they start begging, and doing the "look at me, I'm dying of starvation" routine. You only have to look at Angus once to know that he is most definitely not starving. In fact, he's a candidate for the same diet that Willy was on--i.e. 2 cups of cereal a day, and lock all the cabinets and the fridge.

Anyway, where are the greeting cards for those of us who have "dogs as children" or "dogs and grandchildren"?

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