How To Be Top Dog

What The Millennial-Driven Pet Industry Can Teach Us About Branding

 by Mandy Sestak, Soulsight’s Trend Tracker



Is there anything in this world that elicits more joy than the deep, unconditional love of a pet? I don’t think so – but maybe that’s because I’m a Millennial pawrent. That’s right, I said “paw-rent” because when it comes to welcoming a four-legged friend into our homes and hearts, my generation thinks a little differently. We are not pet owners, we are pet parents. Collectively, we are waiting longer and longer to start our human families, so we dive head first into caring for our dogs and cats, treating their health and happiness with as much weight as we would human children of our own.

 According to a report by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet spending reached a record-breaking high of $72.5 billion in 2018 ($3 billion more than the year before), and that is largely due to – you guessed it – Millennials.

In honor of National Dog Day, we’ve taken a closer look at the growing pet industry and outlined four strategies to help ensure your brand reaches its fullest pet-tential:



Branding is not just about products. It’s about the emotional connection made with the people using them. This is especially true when trying to reach Millennials, who often connect more strongly with brands that actively demonstrate they understand their lives beyond an advertising headline alone.

Take PetSmart, the specialty pet retailer that, after 32 years, is beginning to engage Millennials in more modern ways. Acknowledging that choices can be overwhelming, they’ve created experiences like Sample Saturday, a monthly tasting event where pets can try out new treats. They’re also highlighting attributes that speak to an elevated level of pet care, like the 800 hours of training their groomers receive. When it comes to your brand, how can you ensure you’re addressing the needs of your customer base in an emotionally relevant way?



Growing up in the Digital Age, Millennials are generally more conscious of health and wellness trends than previous generations. This impacts their personal brand preferences as well as the brands they choose for their pets. According to a report from, 68% of Millennial pet parents indicated that they read the nutrition labels on their pet’s food and treats before they buy, indicating that transparency is key when it comes to product messaging.

Purina PetCare took transparency to production when they launched a partnership with Ree Drummond, Food Network’s The Pioneer Woman, in April. Ree made a name for herself with her cook books full of simply delicious down-home recipes, making her the perfect collaborator for Purina in their efforts to create a line of Millennial-friendly pet treats with a “very simple ingredient list”, as Drummond describes it herself. Whether through new product innovation, packaging or even a tailored communication strategy, how can you push your brand to build trust through transparency?



Millennial attitudes toward human-like pet parenting are opening up new business opportunities. From the emergence of pet hotels and doggy day cares to on-demand dog walking and boarding services like Wag! and Rover, services that were once only reserved to humans are redefining pet care. And for those Millennials who just can’t part with their pups, their desire to travel with four-legged travel companions has prompted many formerly people-only hotels – from La Quinta to the Four Seasons – to become dog-friendly, too. Even online travel platform Expedia has made it easy to search for pet-friendly hotels, offering reviews of amenity-filled properties across the world.

How can you strive to reach new consumer groups in ways that stretch and grow your brand? Consider looking across categories for inspiration as you build your brand’s roadmap for the years ahead.



If there’s one thing Millennial pawrents have proven, it’s that they love their pets in all their individual glory. From stylish bandanas and collars to full-blown Instagram accounts, pawrents are building up the unique persona of their pets in the same way parents do with their kids. And the love doesn’t stop there. Customization opportunities have allowed people to adorn everything from their workspaces to their personal clothing with photos of their pets – think desktop backgrounds, phone cases, pin-on buttons and even socks – as an outward expression of unconditional love.

As you strive to build brand advocates, how can you celebrate the unique identities of your customer base? Demonstrating that you care about your customers’ individual needs and wants helps build trust and long-term advocacy.

Regardless of your industry, taking a paws to evaluate new business opportunities as they relate to the growing pet industry can help ensure you’re building a furever brand.


Soulsight is a Chicago-based iconic brand design agency. Our mission is to propel brands to unlimited success through strategic design that drives consistent relevancy. We are known for delivering inspiring, category-leading creative and insights-driven strategic guidance for some of the world's best-loved iconic, global brands. We're a team of 60 multi-disciplined, strategic creatives who believe in the power of consumer-centric, design-driven branding. We build Soulful brands through strategic design. We are Soulsight.

David ThompsonSoulSight