Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Top 5 consumer picks - pet food industry books

We all have to balance our information sources to get a realistic picture. Books, studies, reports, scientific journals, colleagues, seminars, and industry events can all have a part in forming our final opinion on any given topic.

Unfortunately, humans are inclined to believe what they want to believe and the more it shocks our senses, the better. It's easy for consumers to believe that big industry is greedy and cold. Pet parents are no exception, and their mistrust is fueled by the endless pet food recalls.

For Pet Parents

What pet parents need to keep in mind is that book, magazine, newspaper, and online publishing is also an industry. The more shocking the information, the more the publication sells, especially if it feeds the fear and uncertainty that pet parents feel today. Consumers need balance in their information sources.

When books are published about any industry, consumers feel they can rely on the information contained therein. They'll also trust a quote from a book when they find it online in a blog, forum, etc. While there are some very good books and websites out there, there are also some that use shock, suggestion, and general paranoia to make the sale. My advice to pet parents is always to keep reading and verify the information - don't read one book or website and take it as gospel. If nothing else, the information may be outdated.

Be it in a book or online, consumers must watch for signs of fear mongering, such as constant attempts to nurture suspicion even when the facts suggest otherwise. You may also notice that they'll take the word of a Vet, the FDA, etc., at face value if it happens to support a point they're trying to make, but will otherwise ridicule and question them at every turn. Reading the information will leave you with the nagging fear that nobody in the corporate, medical, or regulatory world can be trusted except of course, the author. These people are exploiting your love for your pet as surely as any other industry could, and they're profiting from it too.

That said, there certainly is accurate information that pet parents are reading as well.

For the Pet Food Industry

The industry has to read what pet parents are reading so they can prepare for, and address, their concerns. We have to provide as many sources of information as we can, and familiarize ourselves with the issues so we can accurately explain our position. There is often more than meets the eye and your average, reasonable pet parent understands that, but they need proof.

It's important for the industry to address these book-based concerns in their content and marketing. If a book suggests that many pet foods contain dead pets and your rendering plant doesn't include them, for example, you want the pet parent to find that information when they visit your website. If there are independent studies or other sources of sound information to back your claims that something is harmless when the books say it isn't, you'll want to provide those sources of information. We also need to educate our customer support staff, so they can address consumer concerns and refer pet parents to reliable sources of information.

There are advantages outside of damage control that we can gain as well. There are many concerns raised in these books that you may have already addressed, such as preservatives, which presents marketing opportunities. Being aware of consumer concerns may also lead to a more acceptable procedure or formulation, or even new products. Being in the know gives you a competitive advantage. Don't be surprised if you learn a thing or two, especially if you outsource.

Through sales rankings, visiting pet communities, reading blogs, etc. I have determined which books are most commonly read and quoted. I strongly suggest that you circulate these books around your company. Use them in your training sessions. Quote them in your sales meetings. Have your writers, researchers, product developers, and the entire marketing department use them as a guide.

Most importantly, emphasize openness and honesty every step of the way. As I've said many times, if you have to lie about any facet of your product, then it's time to change that facet.

Top Five Books About the Pet Food Industry:
Food Pets Die For
Ann N. Martin
Protect Your Pet
Ann N. Martin
Pet Food Politics
Marion Nestle
Not Fit for a Dog
Michael W. Fox, Elizabeth Hodgkins & Marion E. Smart

Read 'em but don't weep - take action.

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