Studies can take the internet by storm, sounding alarm bells about the next major (or minor) catastrophe that will befall the human race.

Sometimes it’s serious: a scientific study recently confirmed the link between wireless devices and brain tumors. If additional research confirms this data, it could mean serious trouble for the wireless industry and smart phone manufacturers.

But sometimes the studies are less serious, such as the one that recently made the claim that dogs hate hugs.

The study relied heavily on anecdotal evidence gathered from the internet. But that did not prevent the findings from triggering a fury over that deep and meaningful question about whether or not to hug your dog.

Pets: A $1B Industry

Over the next five years the pet industry is expected to reach nearly $100 billion in sales annually.

That’s great news if you sell pet products, but in such a vast sea of options how do you set yourself apart? One of the biggest trends in marketing pet products is to emphasize the relationship between pet and owner.

Dog owners are over the moon about their canine companions and cat people have always been cat people. Most pet owners love their animals and want the best for them, whether it's a dog, a cat or something more esoteric. 

So what happens when researchers discover dogs hate hugs? Is it time to panic and stop playing up the human-canine connection?

Not at all. Stay calm and delve deeper into the research. And then extrapolate the findings the next time some internet breaking study threatens your products or services.

When Scientific Studies Create A Backlash

So here's what happened with those apparently unhappy dogs. Researchers studied photos of dogs being hugged and found many were exhibiting signs of distress.

The conclusion: dogs don't enjoy hugs. Hugs stress them out. They are confused by them and may even interpret them as signs of aggression.

But, researchers explained, hat doesn’t mean you should stop showing your dog affection. You just have to learn how to speak canine language so your dog gets the right message from you and vice versa.

OK. So let's take a step back.

It’s important to consider the latest research when marketing pet products. You certainly wouldn’t want to start a campaign to hug your dog if you’re selling pet food: that’s likely to cause a backlash.

At the very least you’re going to potentially make a lot of dogs unhappy and who wants to do that?

Promoting healthy relationships and understanding between humans and their canine companions is the cornerstone of marketing pet products. “Pet companies understand that the love humans have for their pets is a driving factor in their spending,” according to the Market Research blog.

Spin Findings In Your Favor

Let's overlook the obvious — like maybe the dogs hate hugs study was an overhyped response to a small sample that is being totally misinterpreted.

As marketers, we can't always deal with reality: we have to manage perceptions.

And if a viral study suggests that dogs hate hugs, then countering it with logic is probably not going to work.

Instead, as a pet product marketer, find all the other ways pets and their people can show their love for each other.

Change the conversation from “dogs hate hugs” to “did you know your dog misses you when you’re gone? Science proves it!”

This infographic outlines the perfect narrative about a dog’s emotional life to combat the negative feelings associated with the whole “dogs hate hugs” study. Understanding this complicated relationship is key to marketing to pet owners.

And understanding how to address real or perceived intenet firestorms is the key to successful marketing, period.

It’s similar to the concerns created by brain-tumor inducing cell phones. Who really uses cell phones to talk anymore anyway? And how much exposure were the test subjects getting to produce that result?

The facts may show there’s a relatively small risk after all. Understanding how to navigate tricky research is a crucial skill for any marketer to have in his or her bag of tricks.

dogs hate hugs