For those of you who don’t believe that, as humans, we are always looking for meaning, I ask you this: Why do we talk to our pets? Do we expect them to answer? In a way, we do, even though such notion is ridiculous.

The primary reason that branding is so important in stealing market share is because, even when there is no meaning at all, we will instill meaning into that void.

Buying the premium food says more about us than our pets.

Buying the premium food says more about us than our pets.

It’s in that context that I bring up the pet industry, which is a $60 billion market – a shocking figure, especially when you consider that most of the things we buy for our pets (like, you know, clothes) are not needed by our pets.

In fact, just in the pet food arena, the growth market is among the premium foods, with 65% of dog owners and 55% of cat owners opting for the costlier food.

We are really buying ourselves.

Yes, we love our pets but there is something even more personal going on here, and has been for years. We’re not buying all those products – or shelling out hundreds of dollars for vet services – for the pets themselves. We’re doing it for ourselves. Little Fido could care less if he’s wearing a sweater when he goes outside. He wants to sniff and mark his territory.

Instead, we are inferring whatever meaning we can into our pets’ actions. When my dog, Teddy, is looking at me, I feel like he’s communicating something important and deep. What I glean from it comes from me, though, not Ted.

I bring this up because all brands must have meaning or your customers will infuse meaning into your brand. The danger with that is that the meaning could be negative or, more likely, have little impact because each consumer will inject a different meaning. When you mean so many different things to so many different people, you have little impact in the market and have no avenue to steal market share from your competition.

The pet industry has figured this out. That’s why they are increasing margins with high-priced, premium food even though I know Ted would just like a big steak, just like his dad. (Ahem. I mean, just like me.)

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