Dog Dreams: The boundary of “consumer” research Part II

From the Annals of Modern Qualitative Research

Brand Repositioning case study

Executive Summary

Observation 1

Dogs do have a mental life that extends beyond essentials needs.

“My life is passing me by and I haven’t accomplished half of what I set out to do”

 “I can’t get enough sex but that’s not all that I think about”

 “They never ever ask me about what movie I want to watch!”

“The pressure at the dog run in the park is unbearable…all this talk about who’s going where on vacation, the best homes that puppies are going to. I cry for weeks when they take my puppies”

Observation 2

The quality, range, and freshness of dog food matter to all dogs.

“If I didn’t snoop around the neighborhood for moles or worms or ice cream wrappers I’d go crazy eating the same shit every day!” 

“I know I’m fat and I’m going to get gout but I love it that they give me whatever they’re eating and they never eat leftovers. Fresh stuff every day.”

“Organ meat’s the best. It’s like I killed the critter myself!”

Observation 3

There appears to be an ethnogeodemographic segmentation as it relates to dog food with three distinct segments:

Binge & Barf

These dogs enjoy quantity over quality. They will and do eat anything from anyone at anytime. They complain that they cannot help themselves. As the name implies they will eat until food is taken away from them. In spite of this Binge & Barfers claim that they are forever hungry. Estimate that they represent 40-50% of the dog population. The English Sheepdogs and Great Danes the hypnotist spoke to best represent this segment. This appears to be the largest segment on the basis of comments from the interviewed dogs about the number of friends they have from other breeds that feel the same way about food. Other breeds mentioned include the Irish setter, German shepherd, the Keeshond, Spitz, and Mutts. Note the geographic, climatological, and ethnic background similarities: a blend of Anglo-Saxon-Celt influence that could be explained by nature or nurture. More research would need to be done to better understand which is the more dominant causal factor. The Binge & Barf segment is an interesting segment because of the volume opportunity it represents.


These dogs truly savor every bit of the food that they deem is worthy of eating. They are discriminating and particular in what they eat. Once introduced to human food they find it very difficult to return to what they consider to be bland dog food options. Moreover, for Sniffers eating is a game to play with their caretakers. They enjoy the frustration they see on the caretaker’s face and the threatening tone in their voice. Note too that Sniffers appear to be the most articulate of the dogs. The hypnotist had difficulty in breaking them out of the trance. The two interviewed Shar-peis and one of the Poodles best typify the Sniffers segment. Interviews with these three as well as the other poodle all ran over the hour. This caused problems in two homes because there was only one bathroom in the house and the caretakers needed to use it, badly. In addition to guarding against bias noted in the Methodology section the researcher and hypnotist feared irreparable psychological damage if they were to discover that their dogs could talk. There appears to be a common thread among Sniffers as well. These dogs come from cultures with fine culinary tradition. The interviewed Sniffers counted among their brethren a Basenji, an Italian Greyhound, a Spaniel, and a Dalmatian. This segment is accordingly estimated to account for 20% of dogs. Sniffers expect the best and are willing to make their caretakers pay a premium for it. They would be the bulls-eye targets for a premium repositioning of Livers & Hearts.


These dogs tend to eat what they feel they need to maintain their very active, performance-oriented lifestyles. They are looking for well-balanced diets as well. Ideally they would like to follow a 40/30/30 approach to meals. If they don’t get this balance in the dog food served by their caretakers they will supplement with naturally found carbs, protein, or fat. There is a rich oral tradition among Olympians through which knowledge of these natural sources is passed across breeds and through generations. Among these sources is an assortment of different dirt types, plants, insect groups (praying mantis is off the charts), as well as small mammals. More recent additions to the knowledge base include whatever can be found in a dumpster outside a restaurant. Both of the Chihuahuas and one of the French Poodles fell into this category. Other breeds that likely are more represented in this segment than in the others include the Siberian husky, the Rhodesian ridgeback, the Golden Retriever, the Labrador (chocolate) and the Akita.

Observation 4

Perceptions of the Livers & Hearts brand are mixed. Among the discriminating dogs (Sniffers mostly) it is seen as a dusty old brand of dog food used by their mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, and in a few instances, great great grandmothers. Among less discriminating dogs (Binge & Barf) and the Olympians the brand is seen as an energy brand; dog food that’s packed with a lot of good stuff. They don’t believe that the products taste good but are less concerned because they were brought up to believe that dog food isn’t supposed to taste good; that no dog food tastes good because God punished dogs for succumbing to Man’s first call in from the Wild. (Caution: this last observation is based on one respondent who figured himself a philosopher. During subsequent interviews, though, when asked if they agreed or disagreed all dogs agreed)

Observation 5

Dogs pay a lot of attention to packaging.


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