The brand positioning of cats and dogs

Have you ever wondered about the brand positioning of a cat and a dog? Not cat food and dog food – actual cat and dog, as pets.

No? Here you go – let me think aloud 🙂

When considering the brand positioning of a cat and a dog, you would need to see that from two angles – from the perspective of the cat and dog – they offer something to users (us); and from the users’ perspective – we, the people, are the consumers/buyers while cat and dog are products.

Some historical context, before I get into the actual brand positioning part:

Cats and dogs have been domesticated for a very long time in history – a few thousand years, according to multiple archaeological studies.

Domestication means dependence on humans for food, shelter, and controlled breeding at the behest of humans.

Our ancestors were hunter-gatherers and wolves came in handy in support of the hunting process. It was a mutually rewarding relationship – the wolves (that eventually evolved into dogs) helped us hunt while they got a predictable supply of food, and shelter, from us as a reward for the service rendered. Over time, dogs have become humans’ best friends.

On the other end of the spectrum, cats probably invited themselves into the human habitation attracted by a steady supply of mice in our ancestors’ granaries. It was a symbiotic relationship – the cats got plenty of predictable food closer to human settlements and in return for their mouse hunting skills, we tolerated these fierce predators (cats are supposed to be the number one cause of death of birds around the world!) without driving them away.

Over time, cats have come to become dear pets and the Egyptians took that affection to a new high, worshipping them as Gods!

Now, look at the positioning that each animal took.

Dogs shower us with pure, unconditional love no matter who we are to each other within our species – there is probably no other species that treats the human species with such unadulterated love, devotion, and veneration! In short, dogs are too good to be true.

Cats, on the other hand, are the extreme opposite. They do have their ways of showing affection, but cats mostly seem to be in their own world and treat humans as a decent source of predictable food and shelter.

Dogs have become extremely dependent on us as a source of food, while cats (barring the really pampered and apartment-arrested ones) still retain the natural predatory instinct of hunting and fending for themselves when it comes to food.

Probably because of that distinction, dogs are extremely subservient to humans, while cats make humans subservient by being independent themselves.

If they were brands, dogs would probably be a utilitarian brand providing us with functional value in terms of protection, and vocal, visible affection. They serve those purposes explicitly and get rewarded for their service (at a very broad, basic level; one can argue that there are many instances—in the case of specific breeds—where they are like cats, with limited utility value).

Cats would seem positioned more like a luxury brand, offering us perceived value since they have outlived the mouse-hunting phase (for the benefit of our species) that also gave them utility value. They can now choose to hunt mice for fun instead of it being a matter of food. They behave like beautiful ornamental furniture that we are proud to acquire, own and feed for no obvious benefit except for us to feel good about the ownership.

Cats treat us the way a luxury car would treat us – they need to be cared for constantly and treated really well even if they themselves don’t say that they need all that. In return, we get the feeling of ownership.

Dogs seem more like functional cars that take us from point A to point B and don’t need excessive care beyond the bare necessities (I do know that a lot of dog parents fuss about their dogs endlessly and that there are specific dog breeds that do require a lot of specialized care).

Ironically, cats require less care, comparatively, than dogs!

Cats are naturally tidy, keep themselves clean almost obsessively, and have impeccable toilet habits by nature.

Dogs need to be cleaned, are generally messy (by human standards), and need to be toilet-trained. We do all that to the dogs for the sake of what we gain from them – protection, and visible, vocal companionship. But with cats, we shower them with more than what they need because we feel good about ourselves when the cat seems to be showing its affection to us in small, almost uncaring ways!

Cats are, by nature, low-maintenance, since they can fend for themselves. But because we want to feel good about ourselves, we treat them as high-maintenance human partners. Dogs are actually high maintenance as pets, and yet most dogs, as pets, are given the bare minimum (if you look past affluent people having them as pets) – leftover food, no specific place to stay, and old rags as bedding, if at all.

For a low-maintenance pet, we pamper cats like they are high-maintenance, and treat them like Gods (figuratively, now; literally, in Egypt, at one point in history). In short, like a classic premium, luxury product where pride of acquisition and ownership is more important than tangible utility value.

For a high-maintenance pet, we treat dogs like a utilitarian product, though we do shower love and affection. On average, most dogs are owned for practical purposes. And the sheer irony is that even for that, the dogs are extraordinarily thankful to us and treat us like Gods!

In the language of brand positioning, cats position themselves as something worth owning and we do the bidding voluntarily to them. Dogs position themselves using the functional value they bring to us, and we acquire and own them for practical reasons.

I have owned and lived with both cats and dogs while growing up. More than dogs, I identify myself as a cat lover. With dogs, I’m more in awe of them than wanting to be with them – I do not think we humans deserve dogs at all. Given how pure a dog’s affection is, I truly believe they are nature’s miracle.

The reason why I adore cats more is purely from an aesthetic sense. A dog can be a total klutz, but cats, by nature, are extraordinarily graceful and elegant! Every move of a cat is worth being astonished about. But, from a behavior perspective, cats are very similar to humans – selfish and opportunistic. We humans totally deserve cats.

To be sure, even plants can be seen from the prism of brand positioning: the ornamental plants with exotic/beautiful leaves (succulents, crotons, etc.) are the cat-equivalent, while vegetable plants and most flowers are the dog-equivalents! Even when they don’t give us something explicit, we fuss a lot over the succulents, while the practically useful ones we grow in abundance, use them up, and move on!



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