What ‘Pet Fooled’ gets right about consumer confusion
Though the new documentary claiming to “expose” the pet food industry’s unwillingness to communicate the truth gets a lot wrong, it does pin down one facet of consumers the industry has been aware of for some time.
This past weekend, I sat down and watched the documentary “Pet Fooled” on Netflix, and while there were several things I was already expecting out of it (the message that the pet food industry cares about profits first and pets a far distant second, the idea that the industry is using marketing to deceive consumers, the overzealous focus on the melamine recalls without discussing any of the significant pet food safety changes that have come from those recalls in the decade since), one thing I wasn’t expecting was to agree with one of the main threads: the message that consumers are under-educated and overly confused about their options.
Consumers are, on both counts. What the documentary failed to address is that the pet food industry knows this and has been discussing the issue at great length for some time now.
Pet food marketing: deception or adaptation?
“Pet Fooled” presents pet food marketing (on packaging, specifically) as branding uniquely designed to pull at consumer heartstrings and obfuscate the truth of what’s in formulations. This message was given in the larger context of the documentary (which is styled as an exposé), and while that track is obviously not one any industry professional is going to agree with, the overarching message has some merit. Of course branding is designed to capture consumers’ attention — that’s what marketing does. From human food to real estate to new cars to pet food, language and visuals on packaging (a form of…