Are cats or dogs better for advertising?

Discussion
Photo: @AmazingUnicorn via Twenty20
Mar 03, 2022

Recent university research finds that the decision to use dogs or cats in advertisements should depend on how the product links to the stereotypical temperaments and behaviors of each pet species.

Dogs were found to increase an ad’s persuasiveness for products or services perceived as promotion-focused (e.g., stock investments, sports cars) while cats appealed better for those deemed more prevention-focused (e.g., mutual fund investment, insurance).

Xiaojing Yang, a marketing professor at the University of South Carolina and a co-author, cautioned in a statement, “Marketers should ensure that stereotypical pet temperaments are made salient in the message. For example, the eagerness aspect of the dog or the cautiousness aspect of the cat should be highlighted. Otherwise, the intended effects of featuring pets in the ad may not be achieved.”

In another study from Western Michigan University, dog owners were found to favor ads featuring dogs and vice versa for cat owners.

By all indications, however, using either pets in any ad or social media post is seen as a smart move. A study from Nichefire found social media engagement rates for posts featuring pets can rise up to 63 percent higher than those for the average business post. 

That still leaves marketers to decide whether to feature a dog or a cat.

Based on ownership, dogs get the nod. The American Pet Products Association’s pet owners survey that came out last June showed 53 percent of U.S. households own at least a dog versus 35 percent owning at least a cat. 

A study last fall from Budget Direct Pet Insurance based on an analysis of Instagram posts using hashtags such as #ilovecats and #ilovedogs found 91 countries favoring cats versus 76 for dogs. (In the U.S., 38 states favored dogs to 12 favoring cats).

A study from Sortlist, an agency referral platform, found commercials for non-pet products featuring cats delivered 27 times the views on Youtube when compared to the average number of views of any single video on the brand’s Youtube channel. That compares to still-impressive five times viewership for dog commercials. Dogs were also found to support greater engagement versus cats on a brand’s social media feeds.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How should brands decide whether to feature a dog or cat for an advertisement or social media post? How would you explain their popularity on social media and advertising overall?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"My cats are probably going to kill me in my sleep, but I have to go with dogs."
"Dick Seesel’s dog Maggie here. While he’s out of the room fixing a cup of coffee, I’ll weigh in with the obvious answer to the question, which I think you can guess."
"As the proud “parent” of several rescue cats, I must lobby on their behalf."

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9 Comments on "Are cats or dogs better for advertising?"


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Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I love dogs, so that’s my vote! Plus one of the best retailers has a dog as a mascot – Target!

Gary Sankary
BrainTrust

I have honestly never thought about this. It occurs to me that cats and dogs have different “roles” in advertising. Dogs are the happy-go-lucky companions who emote good-natured fun. Cats — something else entirely. IMHO.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

My cats are probably going to kill me in my sleep, but I have to go with dogs.

George Anderson
Staff

I will admit to a dog bias and have wondered at times in the past why a brand didn’t choose to use a dog or puppy in a commercial rather than a cat or kitten.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Dick Seesel’s dog Maggie here. While he’s out of the room fixing a cup of coffee, I’ll weigh in with the obvious answer to the question, which I think you can guess.

Brian Delp
BrainTrust
5 months 14 days ago

What an interesting thought! I’m a dog lover, but I am sure there is more drilling down that could be done. I would think it may vary by brand and demographics. I am curious what the 35 percent of cat owners is comprised of. Is it more male or female? Age range? More urban or suburban? Would a cat owner be more likely to drive a Toyota Prius vs a more adventurous dog owner driving a Jeep Wrangler?

Lucille DeHart
BrainTrust

As the proud “parent” of several rescue cats, I must lobby on their behalf. I agree with the studies in that dogs and cats generate different personality traits and that they can be stereotyped to support specific brand attributes. It has long been an ad agency secret that babies and animals can sell anything, but with the pet market growing so significantly and the shift in family size and inclusion of pets in households, it is no surprise that dogs/cats are popular in social media. Market phenomena like PLUTO in Canada and Grumpy Cat in the US, have proven the appeal.

I would not just use animals for the sake of having them, but if you leverage pets as an audience and household member and appeal to the emotional connection that people/consumers have with them, then I would recommend featuring them. I do think cats have been underserved and have a lot more to offer!

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

Well dogs, of course! (Cats and their agents are too aloof to return phone calls. 🙂 )

Patricia Vekich Waldron
Staff

Meow =^o^=

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"My cats are probably going to kill me in my sleep, but I have to go with dogs."
"Dick Seesel’s dog Maggie here. While he’s out of the room fixing a cup of coffee, I’ll weigh in with the obvious answer to the question, which I think you can guess."
"As the proud “parent” of several rescue cats, I must lobby on their behalf."

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