A thought-leadership stage on higher ground
From its inception, the Purina brand has invested in research and innovation to improve the health and wellness of our pets. However, a majority of these efforts and discoveries haven’t been broadly shared with the public — nor within the hallways of Purina itself. Zeus Jones partnered with Purina to develop the “Better With Pets Summit” to reveal their commitment to innovation across all aspects of the pet-person relationship.
Purina has always been a remarkable company and has always done remarkable things for the good of pets, especially in their R&D group. But for the majority of their history, they — and the entire pet food category — solely centered their communications on their product. It was all kibbles and claims.
One of the things we realized was that there wasn’t a clear understanding of what the company was all about and what they stood for. The marketing folks at Purina hadn’t really connected with the science and innovation groups who are making all sorts of really interesting things happen.
They have some truly brilliant pet nutritionists and behaviorists — all pet lovers themselves — making a wealth of life-changing breakthroughs and their own people just didn’t know.
The more we got to know the amazing things that were happening inside the company, the more we wanted to bring that out and actually create a stage for it.
This realization was the foundation for our Better With Pets Summit. But we didn’t want to limit our speakers to only Purina experts. We rolled up our sleeves and assembled a diverse pool of voices, from outside the company as well as from within. From Judy Finnegan who operates the Puppies for Parole program in Missouri to Dr. Marty Becker of Good Morning America fame to Dr. Brian Hare, founder of Dognition…the list goes on and on.
We were putting ourselves “on display” for all to see, something that Purina has historically been hesitant to do. Because of this, upper management needed to see and share the vision. And they did.
“It was a risk. But it was also a tangible and innovative way to showcase the expertise and integrity of the company.”
The first year we created an event where we centered our attention on capturing digital video content — the talks and performances — for audiences to engage with. The event took place in Manhattan, and the content was filmed and distributed immediately after.
But what we didn’t expect was the stellar reaction from Purina employees in attendance. They were totally inspired and excited in ways that we hadn’t fully anticipated.
We also captured testimonials from people outside Purina who said that it completely changed their point of view on the company. It helped them better understand Purina and see their expertise in a completely different light.
So the second year our theme was innovation and we had a range of influencers, researchers and tinkerers on the stage. Everyone from a 13-year-old inventor who was looking for ways to help ease her pet separation anxiety to a rocket scientist who somehow fell into 3D printing prosthetics for limbless dogs.
And then in year three, we changed the format and shape of the event a bit. The theme was emotional wellness — and how our relationship with pets helps both pets and people. We used experiential components featuring four or five different tent-pole topics and created these amazing interactive exhibits that really brought them to life in compelling ways.
The impact of our summit executions still lives on today at Purina. We forged a number of connections that didn’t just stop after the summit. They continue to develop today and are a huge factor in how the brand acts, walks and talks with every one of its audiences.
Internally, it elicited a great deal of pride across the entire company. External partners were incredulous that Purina would spend the time and money to sponsor such an event and not include a major product sell. It reinforced the company’s commitment to the body, heart and soul of pet care and provided a giant first step to reinforcing Purina as the voice of the category.