The United States does an infamously mediocre job of providing health insurance for humans, and Americans do a far worse job of providing health insurance for their pets. Elizabeth Dimond, chief marketing officer for Pumpkin Pet Insurance, suspects this has a lot to do with the understandably hard time people have when adopting a puppy or kitten envisioning the medical care costs the pet is probably going to require over the course of a lifetime.
Health insurance for pets is not exactly a new product – policies have been available for about 20 years – but only about 3 percent of pets in the US are covered by health insurance policies. Dimond suspects people who aren’t thinking about the future costs of vet visits when tussling with their new puppy or cuddling their new kitten are equally unaware that buying pet insurance is even an option. She has already done a lot to raise awareness of pet insurance. She took advantage of the return of presidential dogs to the White House – Trump was the first president in a very long while who didn’t have a dog – to sponsor the “indoguration” of the Biden’s dog, Major. We asked Elizabeth Dimond about vet costs, the decision to launch Pumpkin Pet Insurance just as the pandemic lockdowns began, and how to make people aware of a little known product like pet health insurance.
Grit Daily: Many startups decided to delay launch during the pandemic, especially in the beginning, but Pumpkin Pet Insurance went ahead as planned. What factors led to that choice?
Elizabeth Dimond: The decision to launch Pumpkin when the pandemic first hit was one of the toughest choices I have made in my career. Despite spending eight months gearing up for the launch, we of course had no way of anticipating the pandemic. To this day, nobody knows how long COVID will last but at the beginning that was an especially large question mark. With that in mind, we opted to move forward with the launch. During COVID, there was a 700% increase in pet adoptions so the timing ultimately worked out in our favor especially as people continue to take a more active role with both their health and the health of their family members, including their pets.
GD: Pet insurance, which is a newer product, is not a common purchase for pet owners. How much demand do you believe there is?
Elizabeth Dimond: Pet insurance has been around for over 20 years, however, only about 3% of dogs and cats in the US are currently insured. We believe one of the main reasons so few pets have insurance is a lack of education on the cost of medical care throughout a pet’s life. Many new pet parents who have young healthy pets don’t realize how often pets can get into accidents. They also don’t factor in illnesses that occur later in life, which require an existing insurance plan in order to cover medical treatment. In addition, unlike human health insurance, most employers are not subsidizing the costs of pet insurance for their employees. There are roughly 100 million dogs and cats that go to the vet – we believe these pet parents could benefit from having the peace of mind knowing that having high-quality pet insurance allows them to offer their pets the best medical treatments available.
GD: I recall the “indoguration” campaign when the Biden became president and brought Major to the White House. How successful was that campaign for raising awareness of pet insurance as a product?
Elizabeth Dimond: The Indoguration was incredibly successful, raising over $202,000 for the amazing animal rescue work of the Delaware Humane Association. We were thrilled to be able to support such a great organization by celebrating a deserving pup while bringing attention to the importance of pet adoption as a whole. A challenge we’ve faced since launching Pumpkin is finding a way to make pet insurance appealing and interesting enough to both the media and the general public. We’ve been challenging ourselves to think creatively about ways to make the topic resonate. The Indoguration was a direct result of that and allowed us to penetrate the mainstream media in a way that would have been otherwise impossible. Not only did we receive coverage in every major news outlet, including BBC, NBC, CNN, CBS, FOX, Mashable, The Hill, USAToday, People, Good Morning America, The Today Show, and many more, but the event trended on Twitter in the United States. Ultimately, coverage of the event reached 6.6 billion impressions.
GD: There was a big increase in the number of new pet owners during the pandemic. What should those people know about veterinary costs?
Elizabeth Dimond: There is no question that going to the vet is expensive, and that is especially true in cases of emergencies. It’s human nature to think something won’t happen to you until it does, and unexpected accidents and illness is no exception. Prevention and preparation is the best approach, and that ethos is at the heart of what we do at Pumpkin. When owners adopt a young pup, illnesses that come with old age are, understandably, rarely top of mind. But I can’t stress enough how important it is to get pet insurance before your pet develops pre-existing conditions. This decision can be the difference between thousands and thousands of dollars in medical expenses.
Many owners also fail to realize that veterinary medicine is constantly evolving and improving, but the latest top-of-the-line treatments– which can be lifesaving– are also expensive. Quality pet insurance options like Pumpkin allow owners to give their pets the best and most innovative treatments available.
Additionally, preventative care is key to keeping pets happy and healthy– from annual checkups, vaccines, to flea, tick, and heartworm prevention– these are all essential parts of pet ownership. Pumpkin is a strong believer in prevention and we do our best to communicate that to our clients.
GD: You’ve had a long career in marketing, but it appears you were mostly with established companies with familiar products. What are the challenges you face marketing a new product such as pet insurance?
Elizabeth Dimond: One of the biggest challenges with pet insurance is convincing pet parents to sign up when their pet is young and healthy. Insurance is a heavily regulated industry so many of the standard e-commerce urgency plays and promotions don’t apply here. So ultimately we have to rely on educating pet owners about why they need pet insurance.
Additionally, Pumpkin is one of the most comprehensive pet insurance options available, and ensuring pet owners understand the advantages of opting for quality over low cost is another challenge. Low-cost insurance options typically have a lot of exclusions that end up costing pet parents more, creating the notion that pet insurance isn’t worth it. We built a comparison page so that pet owners can easily understand how our insurance compares with other options in the marketplace.
GD: Do you have a pet?
Elizabeth Dimond: This is on the horizon for my husband and me! I am a huge animal lover, but the timing hasn’t been quite right for us to get a pet yet. I’m hoping we can plan for this in the near future.