Ganesh Ramani from Mars Petcare takes us through the Whiskas India Marketing Strategy, sharing how they market a cat product in a country where innumerable stereotypes and susperstitions are attached to an innocent feline.
With increased awareness around pet healthcare, pet adoption, and grooming, the India Pet Grooming & Healthcare Market has flourished in the last few years. According to reports, the Indian pet care industry is pegged to reach INR 5457 crore towards the end of 2025. Reports further suggest that dogs and cats are the most adopted pets in India, with their counterparts such as turtles, birds, and fishes, also seeing a spike in adoption rate. With this, there has also been an increase in the demand for pet grooming, nutrition, and even insurance.
We speak with Ganesh Ramani, General Manager, Mars Petcare to understand how Whiskas creates a marketing strategy that helps fill the need gaps experienced by pet parents while creating brand affinity.
Whiskas Marketing Strategy – Debunking Cat Stereotypes
During the second wave as more pets were being abandoned by their families, Whiskas decided to step in and help their feline friends. To get rid of the preconceived notions, superstitions around cats, and encourage people towards adopting the loving animal, Whiskas launched its #AdoptACat initiative.
Ramani explains, “As a brand, we support the perception, which considers cats as curious companions, loving friends, and playful housemates.” Additionally, cats are considered to be low-maintenance pets, relatively when provided with basic facilities, they can remain happy indoors. “Despite the advantages, there are many kittens looking for loving homes. Thus, Whiskas has been working towards trying to create awareness around cat needs through our #BringHomeCuriousity philosophy”, adds Ramani.
Cats aren’t looked at in a favorable light in India due to an obvious lack of information, especially when it comes to caring and nurturing felines, shares the brand. In line with this thought, the Whiskas’ content aims at educating cat parents to reinforce how cats are ‘cute’ and ‘curious’, not with any of the vile, stereotypical, and unfavorable qualities associated with them.
“Our communication aims at convincing humans of the good in cats”, highlights Ramani. Whiskas also intends to bring new users to the category through their initiatives and marketing strategy.
Marketing Strategy & Role of Digital
With more access to information, pet parents want to experiment with new textures, flavors, and variants to provide the best for their cats. Ramani puts forth, “One of the most noticeable consumer trends of 2021 has been an increase in the demand for food portfolios to meet the requirements of the cats based on their age, size, and breed.”
As the presence of the target audience on digital channels increased, Whiskas tweaked its marketing strategy and the spending across digital platforms. “Digital media allows us to identify and sharply target current and upcoming cat owners. Cat food purchasers have always been over-indexed to digital purchasing which allows us to understand their buying behavior on e-commerce platforms”, explains Ramani. The brand has adopted a 360-degree media approach across print, digital, and television to supplement its digital efforts.
Social Media Play
The Whiskas marketing strategy is significantly driven through digital media.
The brand’s social media strategy focuses on information-based communication geared at pet parents.
However, even within digital, the brand has platform-centric objectives and subsequently tailored communication. They are amplifying reach through YouTube for pet parents and engage with them through peripheral social media platforms. “We have very specific content and conversations for each channel that help us deliver our targets for the brand”, highlights Ramani.
With a global presence, Whiskas India has maximum followers on YouTube with 21.3K subscribers, followed by Facebook with 20K+ likes, and Instagram with 5730 followers
While YouTube has largely played the role of building awareness through content, Whiskas’ social channels have been a means to break the latest messages down to create more relevance for the brand in the audience’s lives.
From a product lens perspective, the focus has been on providing content that includes educating pet parents by providing information on the health and nutrition aspects across the social platforms.
As part of the Whiskas social media marketing strategy, YouTube presents a bouquet of campaign videos for the brand, and often for Live videos.
Instagram & Facebook
Ramani highlights how Instagram places more focus on constant and immediate engagement for the brand and therefore is the primary platform to communicate with audiences about the cause of adopting curious feline companions.
Both Facebook and Instagram follow the purple hues as the primary brand color. From questions on feline pets to celebrities endorsing the brand and spreading awareness, Whiskas India Facebook and Instagram pages bring newer offerings and CSR initiatives to the table.
The brand pages also feature Did-you-know type posts and testimonials, apart from Live Q&A sessions from the doctors leveraging the Instagram Live feature
For ROI and the social media metrics, the brand shares that each of the digital campaigns are calculated depending on its objectives.
If the objective is reached, and the campaign creative is video, then Ramani highlights that the metrics in focus could be VTR, CPM, and CPV, while if the creative is static, the focus shifts towards CTR and CPM for that campaign.
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Whiskas also focuses on showing pet parents how to enhance their bond with their cats with easy-to-follow content including easy DIY toys.
The brand’s strategy for India has always been about building a community that becomes self-sufficient as time passes. “We nurture this community of feline enthusiasts and cat parents by addressing concerns, disseminating information, and sharing resources that aren’t easily available to the Indian market”, shares Ramani.
As per the brand, catering to the Indian market in this category means keeping in mind several small but crucial cultural factors, something that is unusual in other countries. For the global communication and social presence, the essence of Whiskas remains constant but the communication of that essence is what varies, shares Ramani.
Whiskas also focuses on educating cat parents across areas like kitten care, adult cat care, vaccinations, grooming, health, and enhancing the bond between humans and cats with Whiskas’ products.
For topicals, the brand leverages any trends that would be relatable to cat parents. “We avoid jumping onto every social media trend, especially if it isn’t in line with our core values”, points Ramani. We aim at inserting our brand’s core values into well-known, recognized formats to share fun, relatable experiences of being a cat parent, he adds.
Another essential part of Whiskas content and marketing strategy is influencers. Ramani puts forth that they have consistently partnered with influencers across various categories, especially ones who are pet parents themselves, to promote their products, causes, or campaigns.
“Going forward, we aim at experimenting with long-term collaborations with eminent influencers to maximize the reach and engagement of our communication”, he shares. Again, the focus for the brand would be to find pet parents who can effectively represent the ethos of Whiskas, while highlighting the best parts of having a cat in their lives.
Making A Difference
Whiskas will continue to create awareness on the benefits of manufactured pet food, in the days ahead. With time, cat parents are looking for more nutritional options for their cat food. The brand is also launching holistic products for expanding the selection available to cat parents in India.
In a bid to make a difference and aid humans and cats, both during a pandemic, the bran organized a drive where COVID-affected pet parents could sign up on their website to receive a 14-day supply of cat food, ensuring that their cats were still well looked after, even if the humans were unwell and unable to step out to buy pet food.
Additionally, Whiskas India initiated many donations drives in association with NGOs and fundraising platforms to ensure that even stray felines were fed and taken care of.
Distribution Strategy & Challenges
Whiskas products are available through SPT outlets and are present across major e-commerce sites. Ramani highlights, “As a part of the changing buying behaviors observed during the pandemic, we have also started distributing our products through grocery marketplaces like Amazon, Dunzo, and Big Basket.”
While e-commerce continues to be a critical channel for the brand to bridge the distribution gap, Whiskas is also slowly expanding to new cities and markets across the country. During the pandemic, the brand saw an upsurge in pet parents entering the category. Since Whiskas is “Made in India”, the brand was able to engineer the factories and supply chain to quickly meet the increased demands.
“With this strategy, we have witnessed a steady growth in sales, which is why we are working hard towards increasing our availability across important channels”, cites Ramani.
Whiskas India will continue its strategy of building awareness while promoting the cause of cats and educating cat parents. In terms of sales and marketing, the brand will focus on building the growth momentum for the rest of the year and beyond.
“We also will be continuing with our sampling efforts to get more cat parents to try Whiskas products for their cat”, said Ramani. “We have noticed that the likelihood of cat parents giving them a Whiskas-heavy diet increases once they experience their cat’s reaction to our nutritious and balanced meals”, he adds.
The pandemic has had several negative impacts on people’s lives but the one ray of light is people wanting company – the realization that emotional support is essential, too. “People say that they can feel immensely loved and also care for someone, keeping the loneliness at bay”, highlights Ramani.
“Listen to your audience, not just what they’re saying but to what they’re saying between conversations. That’s where you become their friend and not just a product or service”, he concludes.