Natural Balance Pet Foods doesn’t make food for people—it makes food for pets. That may seem obvious, but in a category where pets are increasingly personified and trends often seem aimed at making food enticing to people and not necessarily their dogs or cats, the premium pet food brand is something of an outlier. Its new “Made for Pets, Not People.” campaign embodies just that.
“We wanted to develop a marketing concept backed by thoughtful scientific research—just like our pet food,” said Christy Roberts, Natural Balance’s marketing director. “The results are some strange commercials that humans might not get. That’s okay because we designed these ads to appeal to our four-legged family members.”
Natural Balance was curious if its focus on pet well-being could translate to its advertising. To find out, they sought the advice of prominent animal behavior expert Dr. Nicholas Dodman—professor emeritus at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and co-founder and chief scientific officer of the Center for Canine Behavior Studies—about what, if any, kind of advertising dogs and cats would most enjoy.
“Dogs prefer sounds in the 20 to 25 kilohertz range,” Dr. Dodman said. “Additionally, while we humans are a trichromatic species, dogs are dichromatic. They have a genetic issue with one of the three receptors that basically makes them red-green color blind.”
“Contrast and colors are not going to be particularly important to cats,” said Dr. Mikel Delgado, PhD and certified cat behavior consultant. “Their vision is really designed to detect movement in low light conditions. So, it’s the change of the movement that they’re sensitive to.”
That was just some of the pet expert input that inspired a varied search for potential video and audio footage. To narrow down the options, Natural Balance commissioned one of the world’s first focus groups for pets. “We’ve never worked with dogs and cats here,” said Daniel Conner, owner of Accurate Focus, Providence, RI. “It's been fascinating to see their reactions—some only to the sound, others to certain images.” For a sense of the process, you can watch the behind the scenes video.
“Over the last 30 years, we’ve seen our fair share of pet nutrition trends come and go, but we’ve never taken our eye off a pet’s holistic health and well-being,” said Brian Connolly, CEO of Natural Balance. “By creating ads that may seem odd to you and me but are captivating to dogs and cats, it’s a potent reminder to pet parents who they should really be thinking about when making decisions about what to feed their pet.”
Natural Balance’s campaign research has not ended with their focus groups. They are encouraging pet owners to show the ads to their pets and post their reactions on social media using #forpetsnotpeople.
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