What goes around comes around. Pets.com, the company selling dogfood over the internet became the poster child of the previous dot com bubble after they started giving away free pets with the food and apparently now dogster.com is one of the new social network phenomenaâs, a social network for dogs (well, mostly for their owners).
I got me thinking about what was wrong with Pets.comâs plan. I mean lotâs of companies do this sort of thing where they give away something or sell it for very little (razor, printer) and then make their money on the supplies you need to use the item (blades, printer toner). Why not do the same with dogs and dog food? The answer is simple of course: for the razors and printers there are high switching costs. There are of course companies advertising copycat toner cartridge but in general people stay with the toner of the printer producer. With dogs this is so much harder â you buy a dog from one place and this dog will eat food from any place.
Or is it that much harder? Technology has progressed and I feel weâre ready for Pets20.com. See with genetic engineering it shouldnât be so hard to create a dog that will only eat Pets20.comâs dog food. Some hidden allergy or a lack of some enzyme combined with a patented ingredient in the dog food or something. The marketing then is very simple; you target kids and give them these very cute puppies and an initial amount of food plus instructions on how to order more. After a week or so the food runs out and the choice is then between buying more food for the dog or seeing it starve.
Of course I am joking. Kinda. You see and will see this stuff more and more though. Usually in the name of security or quality, manufacturers will put microchips in products that make sure they will only work with selected other products â cars that only run if you put them on approved tires, printers that check some cryptographic key in the cartridge, laptops that wonât work with generic memory. You might pay a little more, the manufacturers will say, but it safer (this car just steers better with this type of tire), guarantees quality (the cryptographic key assures color correctness) or it just makes sure the batteries donât explode.
We could even do this in the dog story â many people feed their dogs the wrong food and this makes the dogs unhealthy and unhappy. Better to make sure it only gets the approved type of food that guarantees a long and healthy life for the dogs 2.0.