Leeds-based agency Robot Food has a penchant for creating emotive brands from a mascot’s point of view: in the last year alone, they’ve given traditional brand Harringtons a contemporary rebrand, redesigned the supplements brand for animal joints YuMove and created a brand for the yet-to-be-launched ‘No Animal Wasted’ line of treats.
The culture of pet ownership has changed dramatically in recent years, which is not surprising given the pandemic-induced pet boom (according to the BBC, 3.2 million UK households acquired pets during lockdowns).
Most of today’s pet owners don’t own houses with large yards; Urban pet ownership has been on the rise for years, with a clear rise in the pandemic. At the same time, pet owners are now younger. “The category has opened wide,” Jess Cook told Creative Boom.
With these big changes in the marketplace, the conversation around how pet owners can give their pets their best life is naturally changing. While pet branding has in the past been largely functional (although some cat brands aim for luxury), Cook explained that we are now seeing an increase in playful, accessible and emotional brands that represent the evolution of role play. pets in our lives. . Even before the pandemic, this shift has begun to take hold—think of the rise of DTC pet brands like Butternut Box, Tails, and Cat Republic.
With many pet-focused startups springing up as a result of growth in the pet market, Cook explained that traditional pet brands are in a unique position: The capital they’ve built with long-standing customers is important, but the market is now overloaded. with new pet owners whose loyalty is not a given. With so many options on the shelves, many of which speak directly to the lifestyles of a new generation of pet owners, how does a traditional brand stay on top? This was a major consideration for Robot Food as the team undertook a major rebranding project for British pet food brand Harringtons.
“Harringtons needed to evolve with customer needs, finding relevance with the new audience of pet owners with a more emotional hook,” Cook told Creative Boom. “They had relied on quality and price commerce, but that only scratched the surface of the brand – we needed more to get people connected.”
Robot Food’s answer to making the brand more emotionally relevant is simple but effective: optimized on-pack signage allows new animal photography to dominate the pack. Now, looking at a bag of Harringtons dog food means looking into the warm puppy eyes of a platonic ideal of a dog.
“The photo shoot was quite an undertaking, but it was a key part of the project,” Cook revealed. For example, each ‘model’ dog needs a stand-in and specialist photographers are required. But the result is undeniable: the photography and design capture the emotional experience of loving your pets and infuse the Harringtons positioning with the poignant (but not over the top) message it needed to compete.
Also on the minds of the Robot Food team, as it developed the new brand fueled by Harrington’s heart, were the changing design cues around wellness. Harringtons has long relied on natural ingredients in its products to elevate the brand above the rest, but for today’s pet owners, “natural” is a given – they want and need more than that from products. what they buy Cook reflected: “Especially in times like this, brands can’t rest on their laurels – they have to think ahead and not wait until they hit the point of decline to take action.”
So while the new Harrington brand retains the classic green and cream color palette that makes it recognizable, the Robot Team strove to improve the design, make it more contemporary, and lean into photography to speak beyond Harrington’s natural credits.
Communication about pet health and wellness really took center stage in another RobotFood pet project: YuMove, a line of veterinarian-approved joint supplements that pet owners can give to pets suffering from problems. in the joints. YuMove products can also be offered preventative measures, the same way we take regular vitamins and supplements as humans.
Cook said the success of a product like YuMove is a direct result of evolving attitudes around health and wellness among a younger generation of pet owners. Today’s pet owners “anthropomorphize our animals,” explained Cook (who is also a cat mom), and because wellness is an aspiration for us, we now place the same emphasis on our animals.
Today’s pet owners don’t just want to buy the healthiest foods, they want to offer their animals the very best in health and wellness through supplements. Late last year, Queer Eye stars Johnathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski launched their own line of pet food, Yummers.
But Robot Food and YuMove took a different approach than Yummers when it comes to talking to pet owners about supplements. While Yummers leans 100% on the same kind of emotional storytelling that defines Harrington’s new brand (although the brands are certainly aesthetically different), YuMove aims to balance that much-needed emotional connection with clarity and functionality of benefits. brand doctors.
As with Harringtons, photography played a crucial role in the design: action shots of the dogs at play stand out on the package, creating that emotional layer by connecting pet owners with the image of health and happiness they desire. for your dog. The photography is complemented by a dynamic and fun graphic language that generates trust and emotional connection.
Robot Food’s most exciting and dynamic pet project may be yet to come: NAW, which stands for No Animal Wasted, “celebrates all the meaty, furry, nose-to-tail treats your dog loves,” Cook said. . Robot Food created the name and entire branding, which will come equipped with custom hand-drawn typography and textures using scans of actual products to communicate the rawness of the brand through design elements.
Launched in March, NAW will be less about animal photography and more about attitude. However, the foundation of the brand still speaks to Robot Food’s commitment to designing brands that emotionally engage pet owners and help them make the best choices for their pets.
Harringtons, YuMove, NAW, and all of Robot Food’s other pet projects speak to a deep understanding of the changing role of pets in our lives, and the agency stands out as an advocate for modern, meaningful pet branding that perfectly balances role. with the sincere
Cook says the real key may be the team’s shared love and respect for animals. “Many team members who worked on these projects have pets, and we all love animals. It makes it easier: when you understand and recognize the quirks and experiences of animals and how pet owners experience caring for their pets. You should be in the pet club to get it, and we are.”