Old Dogs CAN Learn New Tricks: Transforming a four-decade old dog treat brand

In today's competitive market, attracting and retaining millennial customers is crucial for business success. This case study explores how Darford, a premium natural pet treat company based in British Columbia, successfully reinvented its brand to capture the attention of millennial consumers. By partnering with Maverick Agency, Darford overcame stagnant brand performance and achieved renewed sales growth.

Since 1987, Darford has been baking premium small-batch natural dog treats in a variety of tasty and healthy flavours dogs love. The Vernon based business is known for using only the best locally- sourced artisanal ingredients, never using meat byproducts, soy, corn or artificial flavours or colours. But the company soon discovered that its production and flavour differentiators were not enough to move product alone.

After 30+ years of success, Darford noticed a decline in brand appeal and performance among millennial consumers. This demographic, known for their distinct preferences and values, represents the largest share or pet owners in North America and presented a unique challenge for the company. Recognizing the need for change, Darford sought the expertise of Maverick Agency to revitalize its brand and reconnect with this crucial market segment.

Maverick conducted a comprehensive analysis of Darford’s brand architecture, scrutinizing each product line, flavor, and the overall brand hierarchy. This critical examination laid the foundation for a strategic reimagining of the brand, preserving the company’s core values while meeting the evolving preferences of millennial consumers.

The rebranding strategy focused on establishing an emotional connection between pet owners and their dogs. By centering rebranding efforts around the joy and love shared during “treat time,” Maverick established a strong emotional bond with Darford’s target audience. At the same time, Maverick emphasized the health and nutritional benefits of Darford’s treats, capitalizing on the company’s commitment to using premium natural ingredients and in-house oven-baked production.

Recognizing the significance of eye-catching packaging in attracting consumers, Maverick redesigned Darford’s packaging to stand out on shelves. Vibrant colors, captivating imagery, and clear product information were used to communicate the brand’s new identity, effectively showcasing key differentiators and tasty ingredients.

The results were transformative. With the rollout of the rebranded product lines, the company experienced a 40% year-over-year increase in North American sales. By strategically positioning the brand among millennial consumers, Maverick helped Darford not only grow product sales but expand distribution and retailers. The refreshed brand rejuvenated the company’s market performance and allowed them to regain relevance among its target audience.

Notably, the rebrand enabled Darford to reestablish itself as a leader in the healthy pet treat segment by positioning its messaging around nutrition and taste in line with the values and preferences of millennial consumers. It didn’t hurt that the treats continued to surpass expectations among even the pickiest of canine taste testers!

Darford’s partnership with Maverick exemplifies the transformative power of strategic rebranding and the importance of adapting to changing market dynamics while remaining true to core brand values. In an increasingly competitive landscape, businesses must embrace change and invest in branding to continue evolving with their target customers.