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Project 1: Why Court Pet Valu

Individual Assignment on National Canadian Brand
Lisa Sousa AAM 535 Paul Gillespie January 28, 2014

Executive Summary

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Under new company direction as of 2009, Pet Valu is making changes to their stores by re-modelling in order to give their brand a more contemporary feel. The company has yet to take part in any major mass marketing campaigns to help promote their brand. By launching an integrated marketing communications plan, Pet Valu can introduce their new look and differentiate themselves from the competition through strategic positioning. The plan would entail positioning Pet Valu as a friendly neighbour that has the expertise to help your pet grow. In this way, they would emphasize the idea of a premium experience built around their products, convenient neighbourhood locations, pet expertise and unparalleled customer service. Communication channels would consist of television, radio, print, and social media. Introduction This report gives a current overview of Pet Valu as a speciality pet food and supply retailer, and analyzes the brand’s marketing potential. In doing so, this report demonstrates the opportunity that is available to an agency if they were to court Pet Valu as a client. Company Analysis Pet Valu is Canada’s leading specialty retailer of pet food and supplies (Doyle, 2011). There are currently 500+ locations across Canada with over 800 employees (Doyle, 2011). Beyond food and supplies, Pet Valu offers value-added services through friendly expert advice (Pet Valu, 2014). Pet Valu also takes part in much philanthropic work within communities to help animals in need, donating approximately a million dollars a year to charities (Close-Up Media Inc., 2013). Although originating in 1976, in Ontario, with headquarters in Markham, the brand has been a part of the portfolio of the American, Roark Capital Group since 2009 (Canadian Press, 2009). The buyout has been beneficial for the brand as Tom Neely, the current CEO, is seeking to drive change (Doyle, 2011). It is his belief that brands need to continually update their market offering to stay


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top of mind with consumers and maintain market share. Starting in 2010, Pet Valu launched a revamping of their stores (Doyle, 2011). Over one hundred stores across Canada have been renovated and over 85 new stores have opened. With the needs and wants of the consumer in mind, these stores have new technological systems, furniture, are decorated in natural wood colours, and are better merchandised for more visibility. However, advertising efforts remain at a minimum with a focus on occasional flyers and subpar social media profiles. Despite this, Pet Valu, as the current CEO suggested is a “value-added franchise, with a strong brand and market positioning, that has experienced management and a loyal customer base” (Canadian Press, 2009). However, Pet Valu employees have voiced concerns that Pet Valu has no clear vision of who they are as a brand (Glassdoor, 2013). Despite downfalls, consumers and employees alike have a positive perception of Pet Valu based on the level of expertise and high level of customer service, as well as, on the ongoing partnerships with animal shelters and animal related charity work (Yelp, 2013). These consumer benefits are what help set Pet Valu apart and are a fundamental part of their continued growth. Competitor Analysis In the category of specialty retailers of pet food and supplies, Pet Valu’s major competitors are American big-box store PetSmart and a fast growing Canadian competitor, Global Pet Foods. PetSmart has great brand recognition with a bouncing ball logo and a clear positioning of happiness in a store (PetSmart, 2014). They offer similar products to Pet Valu, often on a larger scale, and take part in pet adoptions and pet related charities (PetSmart, 2014). Global Pet Foods, has similar attributes to Pet Valu, being on a smaller scale than PetSmart, but has less neighbourhood density. However, Global Pet Foods does have a clear differentiating philosophy of “Mind+Body+Soul+Spirit” (Global Pet Foods, 2014). As pet humanization continues to grow, Pet Valu also faces competition from a variety of pet centric retailers that are popping up, particularly in urban areas. With busy lives and more strategic spending habits, consumers looking for convenience and affordability will also often buy their pet supplies at


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superstores, grocery retailers, and wholesale competitors (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2012, p. 5). This has created indirect competition for Pet Valu that is becoming more prevalent. Among the biggest threats are Walmart, Loblaws, Metro, and Costco (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2011, p. 4). Customer Analysis In the broadest sense, Pet Valu customers are pet owners. Being a pet friendly store, the pets themselves can also be thought of as customers; a happy pet means a happy owner. Current customers shop at Pet Valu because of the variety and quality of the products, the level of pet expertise, and the shopping experience (Pet Valu, 2014). Based on current Canadian pet food market statistics, the majority of pet owners have either a cat or dog, so these are of focus to Pet Valu (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2012, p. 2). More specifically, the company has done an analysis of their current consumers and has determined that Pet Valu’s main customers are female pet owners, aged 40 and above, who have higher than average income and education (Doyle, 2011). As the number of households with a pet increases, new pet owners could be future Pet Valu customers (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2012, p. 2). As pet humanization continues to grow in popularity, people who want to do better by their pets could begin to shop more frequently at Pet Valu (p. 2). If Pet Valu positions themselves strategically in the market, they could also gain those consumers who are looking for both convenience and quality, and might generally shop at a grocery retailer. Marketing Opportunity As stated in the company analysis, Pet Valu’s advertising efforts are at a minimum. Without advertising, they continue to rely on word-of-mouth marketing through in store experiences and have yet to create further branding that will drive consumers to actively choose Pet Valu. However, now is the time to do more. Under the new direction of Tom Neely, Pet Valu is modernizing stores in order to continue to grow. A marketing campaign could help create buzz around the changes they have made. Now is also the time to do more because after some economic uncertainty, consumers are becoming more


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comfortable economically, and have a growing disposable income; resulting in the willingness to spend more on pets (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2012, p. 2). The rate of pet ownership is increasing and as consumers trend toward pet humanization, spending more on their pets, and making healthier, more premium choices, revenue from pet foods will continue to grow. Pet Valu offers the natural, organic, eco-friendly products that consumers are looking for with the added benefit of tailored customer service (Pet Valu, 2014). They have been around for over three decades, have expert knowledge, are warm, friendly, and honestly love pets (Doyle, 2011). They take part in a variety of corporate social responsibilities, helping with charities and pet adoption (Perth EMC, 2012). These are all qualities that have the potential to be intrinsically linked to the brand if marketed correctly. With so many locations, Pet Valu is also in most neighbourhoods, which is an advantage over direct competition. Pet Valu also offers more than just food, with a variety of toys, accessories, treats, and special care products that cannot be found at grocers. Unlike grocers, Pet Valu also sells products for a variety of animals beyond cats and dogs. With pets such as reptiles becoming a trend in urban areas, this could be a vantage point featured in marketing efforts (Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2011, p. 5). The marketing objective, therefore, would be to effectively communicate Pet Valu’s new look to consumers and to actively compete in the growing pet market by communicating a position that will resonate with consumers. The strategy would be to highlight Pe t Valu’s points of difference, as stated above, while playing on current trends, such as, healthy active living, pet humanization, and the need for convenience. Pet Valu’s characteristics as a brand will be marketed in such a way that they become personified, so that the emotional attachment consumers have to their pets will be translated into a relationship with the brand. The goal is to create positive sustainable brand recognition. Target Market and Positioning Strategically, it would be best to target the consumption market of women, aged 35-45, living in Ontario, who are affluent and have a higher than average income and education. This is based on Pet Valu’s own conceptual target that has been determined. Being a premium-brand selling premium


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products, Pet Valu’s main consumers understand the benefits of premium products and have the income and desire to spend. They are family oriented and enjoy experiences and small luxuries. They care about their pets and treat them like family. They are also active and enjoy a healthy lifestyle. Although these women will often battle with a need for convenience, they will ultimately want to give their pets the very best due to a maternal and morale nature. Therefore, Pet Valu’s positioning statement would be, “To affluent, urban women, aged 35-45, who want the best for their fur babies but have hectic lives that require convenience, Pet Valu is a specialty pet food and supply retailer who, as good neighbour, will help take care of your pet with expert advice ”. Essentially, this positioning would suggest that Pet Valu provides a neighbourhood shopping experience that will satisfy all the needs of the customer and their pet in a more personable and coherent way. It also still stays in line with their current phrase, “At Pet Valu, we’re Pet Experts, and we’re pet lovers, too” (Pet Valu, 2014). Creatively, this campaign can be focused around the idea of a growing experience for your pet that they would not get at another retailer. Communications Management Communication of Pet Valu’s new positioning would be launched through an integrated campaign consisting of television, radio, print, and digital work. Television as a mass media can reach a breadth of consumers, including our target, who as part of Generation X, uses broadcast as a form of media. Television is crucial because it has the ability to depict sentiment and create an emotional connection. Likewise, radio has the ability to tell a story. Television, along with radio can also drive consumers to become part of the Twitter and Facebook groups. Print ads will reach the appropriate target, as they are affluent and have above average incomes, and would allow them to learn about Pet Valu through an aditorial about pet health and wellness and a call to action. Finally, digital work such as social media campaigns would allow consumers to further their relationship with the brand through interaction. There


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is the potential for contests, promotions, and continuing their excellent customer service by giving consumers expert advice on Facebook. Conclusion It would be beneficial to pursue Pet Valu as a client for several reasons. As consumers trend toward pet humanization, spending more on their pets, and making healthier, more premium choices, revenue from pet foods will continue to grow. Pet Valu offers the natural, organic, eco-friendly products that consumers are looking for. Positioned correctly, Pet Valu will not only gain the attention of the consumption target but also of other pet owners looking for convenience and a full pet shopping experience. A stronger vision for the brand will boost morale among employees and will further customer service. If implemented successfully, a strong marketing plan could mean a healthy market for our client and a healthy business for the agency.


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Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2011, July). Consumer trends: Pet Food in Canada. Market Indicator Report, 1-23. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. (2012, September). Consumer Trends: Pet Food in Canada. Market Indicator Report, 1-20. Canadian Press. (2009, June 06). Canadian-owned Pet Valu sold to U.S. firm. Retrieved from marketing Magazine: Close-Up Media Inc. (2013). Pet Valu Raises Over $1 Million for Abused Animals in Canada. Entertainment Close-Up, 1. Retrieved from Doyle, K. (2011). Pet Valu: A new look and familiar quality. Retrieved from Business Review Canada: Glassdoor. (2013). Pet Valu reviews. Retrieved from Glassdoor: Global Pet Foods. (2014). About Us. Retrieved from Global Pet Foods: Perth EMC. (2012). LAWS launches Pet Valu Partnership . Perth EMC, 1-2. Retrieved from Pet Valu. (2014). About Us. Retrieved from Pet Valu: PetSmart. (2014). PetSmart Main Page. Retrieved from PetSmart: Pet Supplies, Pet Accessories, and Many Pet Products: Yelp. (2013). Pet Valu Reviews. Retrieved from Yelp:

Appendix – Articles Used

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Paul, I hope you don`t mind but my appendix is not in this digital submission of my written report because they are print outs of the articles I cited in my text. It was difficult to get it all on here but it will be included in my physical copy.