Tux & Tabby is one of the world’s leading providers of design-led products for cats and their owners. Utilizing carefully selected natural materials and distinctive design, Tux & Tabby bring feline products out of the twee and back into high-style. Their products have been featured in major press including Elle Decor, Vogue, GQ, Country Living and Elle China. In addition to an e-commerce store, their products can be found in high-end retail locations and boutiques in the UK, Germany, France, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are 8 million more domestic cats in the USA than dogs. If this is the case, then why is it so hard to find nice things for cats?
What began as a simple question led to a 2 year exploration into product design, pet retail and entrepreneurship.
From lolcats to the crazy cat lady meme – there’s a lot of cat related stuff on the internet. While all of this is awesome if you’re looking to procrastinate, it really doesn’t give cred to the 10,000 year old relationship between humans and cats. Tux & Tabby decided it was time to change the conversation and set out on a creative challenge to design luxury products for cats that reflected inherent feline beauty and grace.
Since the goal was to lift cat products from the depths of dank internet memes and brightly colored Chinese imports, into luxury, exclusivity and style, the primary aim was to target owners who owned purebred cats. Not only was this demographic more likely to spend significant amounts of money on their pets, but they appreciated feline beauty as an aesthetic consideration in and of itself. Because of this, everything from the brand and visuals through to the products and packaging had a coherent mission to accomplish and a strong message to communicate.
Listening to cat owners
A variety of primary and secondary research methods were used throughout the duration of this project in order to understand cats and their behavioral characteristics, as well as the buying habits of their owners.
The project began with an exhaustive examination of cat related stuff – if there’s a cat on it, then odds are we’ve seen it. Field work was undertaken at animal shelters and cat shows, discovering first hand what makes cats and their owners tick. Observations of interactions between humans and cats, and cats and toys were recorded to uncover the things that mattered most before proceeding.
An online survey was developed which received 43 respondents and included 22 purebred cat owners. 12 participants were then recruited from the survey to take part in more in-depth interviews. This was to gain deeper insight into the motivations behind purebred cat ownership and their buying habits. Interview data and survey results were then used to develop key personas.
Three core personas were developed and a picture of who the target audience would be was formulated. “Anna” was chosen as the primary persona and was used during both branding and product development.
Key insight: make it look good
Owner’s primary concerns were about the interaction between their cat and their home. A frequently stated pain point was how bad standard cat products look in relation to the rest of an owner’s carefully styled home.
Many participants raised the issue that mainstream products were ignored by cats. This was confirmed during observation sessions. In some extreme cases mainstream products even caused medical problems due to low quality materials used during manufacturing.
The conclusion? Products needed to be made from natural, cat friendly materials and designed to be sympathetic with as many interiors as possible.
Tux & Tabby required the creation of a full visual system including logo, full brand guidelines, eCommerce website and print collateral.
It was very important that Tux & Tabby distanced itself as a brand from the generic ‘cat’ category, instead positioning itself within the interiors and lifestyle category. This was accomplished through a strict adherence to style guidelines, which influenced both the tone of voice used throughout all touch points and the style and type of imagery used. The brand was very selective of how and when cats were referenced. At the same time, through the strategic use of high quality, striking photos of cats, it was very clear that the brand was for cats and their owners.
When it came to product design, there were three main constraints. The products must:
- complement the primary persona’s interior
- be engaging for the cat while withstanding moderate levels of wear and tear
- use materials that are exciting to cats, natural and sustainably sourced
To address the first constraint, inspiration was drawn from the minimalist Nordic interior, with natural colors like white, brown, black and gray playing a primary role.
The second and third constraints were approached through selection of the right materials. Bearing in mind the cat’s natural predatory habits, pheasant and mallard feathers were sourced from local gamekeepers and 100% natural wool was sourced primarily from rare-breed British sheep.
A first round of prototypes were created. With these in hand, user research was undertaken to gauge feline engagement levels, product durability and overall style.
Based upon observations made during successive (cat) user research sessions and iterative design revisions a final core collection of products were selected. These formed the base of the product collection.
Metrics of success for this project were primarily around how the brand was perceived publicly. As the goal was to change the discussion around feline related products, Tux & Tabby successfully achieved this by gaining both major and international press attention.
Perhaps the best feedback for a design-led product came from Elle Decoration:
“Quite simply, the most beautiful cat toys, bowls and scratching mats we’ve seen.”
Products have been equally as well received by both retailers and customers. The brand boasts a list of retailers in 6 countries across 2 continents. Products have been sold to customers in 45+ countries worldwide and in the 3+ years of trading only two items have been returned.
Tux & Tabby
“To respect the cat is the beginning of the aesthetic sense.”
– Erasmus Darwin