When companies market pet products, they focus on the pet:
“Keep your dog active and healthy by feeding it product X! Keep your puppy from going on the floor by using product Y!”
But here’s the thing — it isn’t about the dog’s joint pain or if it’s ashamed about peeing on the floor. It’s about the owner. Pets fit into our lives and facilitate our actions. Running, walking, social interaction, all of it. It’s about the dog as a tool, as a means to a human end. Pets fall somewhere along a continuum between function and symbol.
Sometimes we talk about our pets as utilities and investment. Sometimes we talk in terms of love as if our pet is human. But no matter how much we love them, it is impossible to fully incorporate the dog into our social circle because of one simple fact; it isn’t human and can’t engage in the same symbolic exchanges that define human interaction.
So when a company sends a message about the dog it’s about more than Fido’s well being. It’s about what people do with the dog and why they do it that is important.