October 16, 2012

Is Fido the Next Ideal Target Audience Member? A look at brands that have extended into the world of pet products

Brand extensions are a common way for established brands to profit from untapped markets that their current product line does not appeal to. By entering into an entirely different product category, these brands can attain these customers and, if done correctly, the extension can be a very lucrative endeavor. For example, Ralph Lauren’s Polo brand successfully extended from a clothing line to home furnishings, such as linens and towels, and beyond. But if a brand extension fails, the parent brand runs the risk of diluting or damaging its brand image and equity.

So why would a well-known brand enter into an entirely unrelated product category, such as pet products? In an interview with Extendonomics, Maria Peevey, CEO and Creative Director of SimplyShe, a leader in the pet lifestyle category, said, “Pet parents increasingly want the same treatment options for their pets as they have for themselves.” These “pet parents”, not pet owners, will go beyond the basic pet needs such as kibble and vet visits and strive to pamper their pets. Brands, such as Martha Stewart, have extended into this category in order to reach these pet-centric customers and provide them with products that allow them to share everyday human luxuries with their pets. Now you can sit on your Martha Stewart couch and read your Martha Stewart Magazine while your pooch lounges on his Martha Stewart dog bed.

When brands consider making the leap into a new category, they must decide if the move is a good match for their brand’s mission and goals. For luxury salon brand Paul Mitchell, moving from human hair care to pet shampoos seemed like a natural extension. This belief brought to life John Paul Pet, a company dedicated to providing “pet care with a salon pedigree.” While there are mixed reviews about the success of this brand extension, with some critics stating that this decision significantly eroded the luxury salon brand, others argue that if pet parents want their dog, cat of even horse to use these high-quality, pH balanced products, then they should have the option. Both brands have banned animal testing on their product lines and John Paul Pet supports non-profit organizations including The Humane Society of the United States and the Best Friends Animal Society.

Another well-known human luxury brand, Omaha Steaks, has ventured into the world of pet products and now offers Omaha Steaks Pet Treats. These cat and dog treats are made from genuine USDA meats and often require refrigeration after opening, a fact that may cause some confusion among pet parents who are looking for some steaks to grill. In her interview, Peevy noted that it is easy for brands to transition into the pet market because they can use excess materials to make the products- leftover fabrics are used to make pet clothes, unused leather from a belt makes a great dog collar and meat that wouldn’t live up to a human’s expectation from Omaha Steaks can be made into a yummy dog treat.

Successful pet brand extension companies all have one thing in common- they know they are selling to humans. These pet parents want their companions to have the same things they love, whether that’s clothes, furniture or grooming products. Tell us what you think of these brand extensions in the comments below.

Mixed by Lily Brock

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