Writing into the Light…

Finding my way with words…

Canine as Consumer… Marketing to… Fido??


I remember sitting in a very relaxed position in the recliner watching TV.  “The kids” were sprawled out around the living room asleep.  Gracie, the golden retriever was laying against the front of the couch, Willie, the Norweigan Forest Cat was sprawled on the cool tile floor in the kitchen area just off of the living room and Misty, the charcoal grey DSH cat was under the green barrel chair snoring.  The electric fireplace was blazing with virtual flames and heat.  My version of American Gothic.

A commercial came on for cheese.  Gracie jumped up out of a sound sleep, sat momentarily in front of the TV, barked one bark and ran up the stairs to the second floor.  I remember shaking my head and thinking, “Okay… whatever!”  Seconds later “Thunderpaws” came bounding down the stairs with one of her toys in her mouth.  Gracie was carrying her cow toy. She associated the “mo-o-o-o-o-ing” of her toy with the “mo-o-o-o-o-ing” of the field of cows in the commercial.  That was the first time I remember thinking “My golden retriever is smarter than your honor student.”

There used to be a belief that dogs could not see TV.  I had realized that was not true.  I am a fan of the “Buddy” movies starring a litter of golden retriever puppies.  Gracie and I have enjoyed them on many occasions.  She will sit with her face right up to the screen to watch the movie.  If the pups get out of line, or in trouble, she will give them a “woof!” to put them in their place.

While doing some research into a totally different product made by the Nestlé Company I came across some astounding information this morning!  One of the products Nestlé makes is Beneful dog food.  Gracie loves her Beneful!  I began reading about the marketing experiment now being run in Germany for this product.  Nestlé is now designing commercials to market to dogs.

Is it not enough that children sit in front of the TV while making their list for Santa, or while making their shopping list for Mom when she is buying toys or cereal or which fast food mecca to visit for dinner?  Now we are marketing to Fido!  Researchers have found that if dog friendly sounds are imbedded into a commercial that it will attract Fido’s attention.

The first sound is a “squeak.” which can be heard by humans and their four-footed friends.  The sound is familiar to the dog and associated to a pleasant comforting sound of their squeak toys.

The second is a high frequency sound similar to a dog whistle humans can barely hear, but dogs can hear clearly.  I’m not sure I like the idea of a pet food company sending subliminal messages to Gracie that I am unable to hear and could potentially be sabotaging nine years of training.  Again, the goal is to attract the attention of the dog.

The third sound is a soft high pitched ping which can be heard by dogs and people.  The “spin” is that Beneful creates an opportunity, through these ads, for human and “best friend” to have a “shared experience.”  I realize I am not the most techno-savy person in the world, but couldn’t we just take a walk together or play fetch with a fluorescent yellow tennis ball, or have a little tug-o-war with that mo-o-o-o-oing cow?

Pulse: Alphonso Labs

Okay, so they get our attention and we have this magical sharing moment during a Beneful commercial.  The question that remains is, despite her intelligence that surpasses your average honor student, how does it get from Grace’s brain to my shopping list? Perhaps phase II of this campaign will be to teach the dog to use the ipad to order their dinner and put it on the shopping list.

There are posters advertising Beneful dog food in Germany (they must be the global test market) that are hung on a low level throughout city streets and scented like Beneful dog food!  Imagine Fido being walked on a leash, dragging you to a poster hung on the side of the building that smells like stew, then dragging you down the street to a market to get more to take home!!  It has become a scary world indeed!!!

Beneful Germany is running a month long promotion to identify the learning style of canines.  After viewing this commercial the two-legged members of the household are to go to their website and answer the question, “Does he/she get their tail wagging and most excited by the squeak, the high frequency whistle or show no reaction and therefore assumed to be dreaming of their next Beneful meal?”  In the end, some lucky pooch who barks in German will win a years supply of Beneful.

Additionally, dogs are being used in advertising directed toward humans.  They will make us look at a commercial or ad.  They engage our emotions – linking memory and emotions to make us remember.  We trust dogs, and in this economic world, people not so much!  Dog lovers feel a kinship with the company we read to love dogs also.

I am truly frightened by advertising that has been researched, designed and produced with my dog as the target.  Maybe I’m just afraid it will work and that will cause me to have to admit that Gracie is smarter than I am!!!

Now, if you can get the two cats to pay attention you may just have something there…


Author: Carol R Craley

I am a former Philadelphia suburbanite who moved to Maine in 2002 ~ a former art educator ~ former school administrator ~former college and graduate school instructor ~ a writer ~an artist ~ and a photographer. I am currently mom to two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels named Emma and Sara and a rescued kitty from Georgia ~ so that is her name. I am inspired by nature, great music, art and writing that makes me ponder the world...

8 thoughts on “Canine as Consumer… Marketing to… Fido??

  1. Ha ha…good luck to them with the cat thing! Interesting post, Carol. I don’t have any pets (live in an apartment and work full time – wouldn’t be fair to the animals) so I don’t pay too much attention to pet product commercials. But I’ve always thought they were designed to appeal to the human owners rather than to the pets. Example: Friskies’ “feed the senses” campaign. Really? Your cat eats this dry kibble and suddenly feels like it’s in an outdoor kitty paradise, frolicking with birds, fish, and other tasty prey? It’s not enough to meet their nutritional needs, now we have to nourish their dreams through their dinner bowls. Otherwise we’re not good pet parents.
    Speaking of dogs watching television…have you read The Art of Racing in the Rain? I highly recommend it.

    • This isn’t what I started out to write about today, but it captivated my attention! I have read The Art of Racing in the Rain… great book!
      This all feeds into my fear that my golden retriever will be proven smarter than me!
      RE: Friskies’… just what I need, something else to make me feel like an underachiever!

  2. I just bought “Racing in the Rain” because i heard nothing but good about it. Carol, when you get the 2 cats to react, let me know. I have 2 also.

  3. Carol, I know my dogs are smarter than me….they get john to do all kinds of things that I can’t get him to do……my guys never look at the tv…maybe because JQ bought such a big tv and mounted it so high they can’t be bothered…….

    • HaHaHa!!! Good point about them having their father wrapped around their little paws!! Grace loves TV and even recognized her family members in the movie “Twelve Dogs of Christmas!!”

  4. I think we’re just suckers for our dogs (I don’t have one anymore, but we used to have a yellow lab) and like to make them happy. How smart of Purina to find ways to market to both humans and canines! Great post. I have not read Racing in the Rain but will see if I can get it on my Nook.

  5. I know my fur kids have always been spoiled rotten! The idea of marketing subliminal messages that I cannot always hear scares me a little. Next thing I know they’ll be putting a hand cut crystal water bowl on their shopping list!!

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