Pet food poisoning shows brands need to be genuine


Readers outside the United States may not be aware of the growing pet food poisoning scare that’s been happening in America and Canada.

To cut a long story short it appears that rat poison has been found in some pet foods coming from a single source: Menu Foods in Canada.

The affected dog and cat foods include major brand names such as Iams, Nutro and Eukanuba, as well as own-label products in US retailers like Walmart and Safeway.

To give an idea of the scope of this recall: the Petconnection website is reporting 48 dog food brands and 40 cat food brands are affected – more than 60 million containers in all. The latest update on deceased pets on the same site shows that 2,300 pets are reported as having died from consuming the affected food.

The interesting thing here is that the whole sorry saga has ripped away much of the brand equity of the big brands involved.

Many of the brands involved will have spent large sums of money creating a brand – a persona for their product that differentiates it from its competitors.

But the revelation that all these brands come from a single source will make customers question how differentiated the products truly are. It’s quite likely that all the brands have different formulations, but I suspect this detail will be lost on the majority of consumers.

The lesson for brand owners is that while companies can create brand images, the provenance and reality of their products needs to be genuine to the image they create.

Consumers are demanding transparency in brands more than ever before.

Some of the most successful new brands launched in the past few years, such as fruit smoothie brand Innocent, seem to be those that transparently prove the values in their words and deeds.

Brands can’t get away will pulling off a customer con trick in their marketing or public relations any more. Consumers will find out if brands aren’t what they seem, and the internet means that once that’s been discovered the news spreads fast.