February 3rd, 2021

‘PetSmart has one niche that has solidified its position as a leader in the industry – and that niche is, it doesn’t sell pets’.

Branding has never been more at the forefront of industry. No longer is the product king; instead it vies with a company’s identity in securing trust from its customer base. With the climate crisis growing ever more prevalent, increasingly companies are taking more responsibility with their production, and the rise of sustainability projects and eco-friendly practices is a welcome trend for all.

Sustainability is a noble cause, yet to stop there is anything but. As being environmentally conscious becomes the new norm, brands should be seeking how they can go further still, and truly set a precedent for betterment which transfers to their audience. Those who follow will go no further than the crowd.

Here we segue to the humble world of pet retail, and more specifically PetSmart. North America’s largest pet retailer, PetSmart has one niche that has solidified its position as a leader in the industry – and that niche is, it doesn’t sell pets. PetSmart dedicates in-store space for local adoption centres, becoming a home for homeless pets, rather than selling pets themselves. Not only this, but animal welfare organisations keep the entirety of the adoption fees, in what is seemingly one of the most counterintuitive business strategies ever devised. Seemingly.

Yet if we zoom out slightly it becomes abundantly clear that for PetSmart, it’s about more than maximising profits, it’s about responsibility. To facilitate the breeding of pets whilst animal shelters filled up is the epitome of irresponsible, so it took a different course. It chose to care, to stand  by animals, and by doing so enhance their value as a brand. To go to PetSmart became more than the sadism of buying a squeaky toy for your pet, it became something of value.

Credit: PetSmart

One consequence of increasing their value was of course, monetary gain. People want to go to PetSmart because it reflects their values as a consumer and animal lover. Yet its so much more far-reaching than this; employees are more satisfied with their roles, the community is more exposed to the benefits of adopting rescue animals, and as a result are more likely to adopt and be satisfied whilst doing so. Thus a positive feedback loop is created, providing justification for PetSmart to extend its mission further, confident that its audience will be recipient.

Now this is not to say by having a space for second hand shoelaces, shoe retailers can enhance their value and sell more shoes in the process (though as I write this it seems like I may have stumbled upon something).

PetSmart is demonstrating that by taking the initiative, being in-tune with and promoting both your audiences’ values and yours as a brand, you can actualise this vision for the betterment of all.

This is but one example of many, in how founding a brand derived from customer-centred responsibility is for everyone’s gain. The Warby Parker eyewear company originates from one of its founders losing their glasses, and being unable to afford to replace them for an entire school term. Now they are dedicated to providing affordable eyewear, and donate eyewear for those who are still unable to access it. Their business has thrived as a consequence of such – their customers are at the forefront of the brand, and in turn derive value from their patronage.

With the importance of brand identity rising, the cornerstone of success becomes by being authentically responsible. Responsibility encompasses more than material sustainability – it’s dedication to the brands’ audience, enriching the community which in-turn, enhances the brand itself. The benefits of adopting sustainable practices are well documented, but the benefits of being socially responsible extend further still.

Written by Connor Dade, Freelance Writer.

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