Published on: June 7, 2011by Michael Sansolo
Anytime I want to think about illogical consumer behavior I think about my dog Hunter. Here’s why:
A number of years ago, our vet told us that Hunter had a sensitive stomach and needed a special type of dog food. Needless to say, it was harder to find and more expensive than what he was eating at the time. What I never understood was why I bought special food for a beagle that seemed happiest eating used Q-Tips from garbage cans or dirty wood chips in the yard.
Logically it was ridiculous to give a garbage eater like Hunter special food, but when it comes to the health of our pets, logic flies out the window. I’ve long known I’m not alone, but like misery, illogic loves company. I have plenty of company.
The New York Times reported this weekend about the ongoing boom in pet products and not just the regular stuff we all know. The industry has grown throughout the recession and upscale pet products continue to proliferate. Among the items the Times found at a recent pet expo: salmon with black and white quinoa; roasted turkey with butternut squash and russet potatoes; and pan-seared duck with brown rice and blueberry compote. That’s all dog food, folks!
The report from the pet expo contained one head-slapping moment after another—such as antioxidant products for pets or a booming marketing in natural and organic foods. Now I know the tough economy isn’t impacting everyone equally and certainly many pets (like their owners) are suffering, but something larger seems at work here.
The truth is that consumers have a value equation for nearly every product they buy and logic rules in some areas and flies out the window in others. When things are special, shoppers find reasons to spend and enjoy more. Certainly that can’t happen with every product in every retail store, but the best of sellers - be it Whole Foods or Apple computers - know where to build those special points. Even value minded retailers can do the same, which is why operators like Dollar General or Trader Joe’s engender such incredible loyalty among their shoppers.
The truth is that all shoppers find a reason to be illogical. But this is more than a business story today. Today’s it’s about my illogical dog.
For countless unknown reasons, Hunter is beloved in my house. He never does chores or cleans up after himself. He sleeps for the vast majority of the day yet feels no guilt about waking up his owners at dawn with loud baying because there are squirrels in the world. Even though we rescued Hunter from a pound in 1998, saving him from an early death, and lavished him with comfort ever since, he spent most of his life prowling our yard in hopes of finding a way to escape. He has always been colorful and illogical.
Yet Hunter is unfailingly loyal and seems to know exactly when and where his presence (and accompanying odors) are needed. He did that job brilliantly for his 13-plus years with us, helping two kids and parents navigate adolescence in the process. What’s more he’s always provided me good copy, whether for jokes or simple reminders on pets and management.
Sadly, those days are coming to a close. Kidney disease is sapping Hunter’s energy daily and with great sadness I know that our annoying little beagle will be leaving us soon. Very soon. So it seemed fitting to remember him with one last lesson.
Illogic seemed to fit him best.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org . His book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” co-authored with Kevin Coupe, is available by clicking here .
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