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I ’m no dog food thief, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find my name on a “Beware These Up-to-no-Goodniks” list shared among St. Louis pet stores. On my way home from work and on the weekends, I go to Petco and PetSmart and Walmart and Target and farm & feed stores and independent retailers and look suspicious.


I do this because there’s something to be said for immersive research, for literally putting myself in the place of the consumers whose purchase considerations I’m working to understand. So I stand where they stand (and crouch and bend over and Google things on the phone and sometimes appear lost and stare without focus and sway side to side). I loiter in the pet food aisles and spend too much time noting pet food ingredient labels and photographing pet product marketing claims and comparing shelf presence. To store employees, I’m (a) St. Louis’s most indecisive pet parent, (b) hoping/prepping for the release of Pet Retail Trivial Pursuit, or (c) casing the joint.

I do this because two of the partners I’m working with sell products that go into pets’ mouths. I’ve spent a lot of time not only understanding why pets decide to allow things into and beyond their mouths (“fun” fact: vomiting due to hasty inhalation is a reliable sign that your dog enjoyed his food) but also, as important, discerning how pet owners decide what to put in their pets’ mouths. The intersection between what pets want in their mouths and what people want in their pets’ mouths is fascinating. A brief list of what mingles at that intersection: gustatory research, human food trends, intimacy issues, traceability, palatability, Ph.D. research, BS marketing, branding, fear, hope, lawsuits, love.

I do this because we’re a pet product marketing agency, and I like to see how our work looks on the shelf. We love seeing our partners’ products on the shelf, but we love, even more, the process of helping get our partners’ products there.

Whether you’re developing an ultra premium dry dog food, trying to create a new category in hairball prevention, or something else entirely, we’d love to talk. We’ve found great success with (and enjoyment in) our combination of business intelligence, brand development, strategic creative, and research methods, which occasionally find me unceremoniously eyeballed and/or awkwardly questioned by pet store managers. In the marketing services world, we talk more (rightfully so) about our strategy and marketing intelligence, but there’s something to be said about good old fashioned customer service, and for my money, there’s nothing more old fashioned than spending too much time in a store.

Jeremy Higgins
Jeremy Huggins is a MarketPlace alum. He oversaw our creative and writing teams, led naming projects, and ensured that all of our brand development work is thorough, thoughtful, and meaningful.