Pupdating Brand Awareness

How a lab journey set out to grow a whole industry category

Teaching owners new tricks

CESAR®’s is the leading wet dog food—in a category that had lost around 1 million households in the past 2 years (cue the sad violin). The wet dog food industry was in trouble. And Mars Petcare knew the only way they could win was by increasing the demand for the whole wet food industry. So Mars set out to do just that, leading with one key insight: When dog owners see their dog babies tails wagging at first taste of CESAR® wet dog food, they’d want to incorporate CESAR® wet dog food into every mealtime. With our help, Mars made it their mission to get samples into the hands of pup parents.


Planting tasty surprises

We knew we needed to come up with smart ways to deliver CESAR® dog food samples through dog owners’ natural online shopping process. And we had to make the experience seamless. Oh, and one small, added kibble? We narrowed our target to dog parents with dogs under 35 pounds—the audience most open to buying wet dog food.

Unleashing a gamut of ideas

To kick off our lab, we held idea-generation sessions with humans from all walks of life. These sessions garnered over 325 ideas—ranging from the simple (like sending samples to BarkBox subscribers) to the extreme (think self-driving ubers "driven" by dogs delivering samples). These sessions allowed us to remove our “marketing brains” completely—so we could cast a much broader net of unbiased, pure thought. From there, we came back together to compile, categorize, rationalize, and narrow the ideas.

Then we began the arduous process of compiling, categorizing, rationalizing, and narrowing our ideas... all without the emotional attachment that comes with “creating” an idea (or, all while doing our best to separate ourselves from the messy emotions associated with brainstorming). This is when perspicuous objectives and outside perspective are paramount.

Human-tested and ready to embark

With our idea list considered and culled down, we were ready to gauge dog owners’ receptivity to the sampling tactics. We sent surveys out to pooch parents across the nation so we could quantify feeding habits, reactions to unrequested dog food, social behaviors, and online habits. The responses led us to some key trends, which we used to inform the prototyping which included simulated experiences, surveys, emails, online postings, and packaging designs. Each shopper experience housed one unique variable, to make for a true A/B test. Our happy tail with Mars set them up for fetching success.

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