David MacNeil became known as a Johnny Appleseed of U.S. domestic manufacturing by parlaying the company he built, WeatherTech, into a symbol of made-in-the-USA might—and by advertising the company’s customized automotive floormats for five years in a row on the world’s biggest advertising stage, the Super Bowl.
Now the inveterate dog lover has found a new outlet for his passion for pooches. Leveraging the R&D and manufacturing resources of WeatherTech, and applying the same made-in-America philosophy and standards, MacNeil aims to turn the pet-bowl business upside down with PetComfort, a new pet-centric line that is designed and made to human-safety standards—and which may get its own Super Bowl spot.
It’s all about providing the level of care that MacNeil believes Mankind’s Best Friend (and cats, too) deserve. The PetComfort by WeatherTech feeding system features ergonomically designed, US-sourced stainless-steel bowls, an elevated stand and an integrated mat. All the materials are NSF-certified safe even for human contact, a first for a pet feeding and watering system, as is PetComfort’s use of anti-microbial and anti-fungal additives and resins that are FDA-compliant.
“We decided to make a system of the highest human, commercial food-serving standards,” MacNeil, founder and CEO of Bolingbrook, Ill.-based WeatherTech, told brandchannel. “We have cut no corners for profit.”
PetComfort is available (for now) only online or at WeatherTech’s flagship retail store in Bolingbrook. The PetComfort line also includes a number of products meant to make automotive transport of pets safe and convenient, as MacNeil told us in a Q&A:
David, why extend into a new marketplace, pet products, after specializing in automotive products with WeatherTech for so long?
We are so proud to be able to offer the finest, healthiest safest pet feeding system to pet owners and we’re very proud that we can manufacture, design and engineer this in America using American technology, raw materials and workers.
This isn’t an “and” statement. I can name all the dogs I’ve had and they’ve always lived a long time. But every one of my dogs died from cancer, the highest cause of dog deaths in America. As far as I can tell there are no federal regulations that control non-human bowls. They don’t seem to care. My business is caring about that.
How are you going to establish the PetComfort brand?
The WeatherTech playbook has worked pretty well so far, so we’re heading in that direction: TV, print, billboards, radio. Maybe even a Super Bowl ad for the PetComfort system. Whatever we can do to help people get the finest, healthiest way to feed their pets, we’ll do. Your pet’s next meal can be a safe meal.
Is this a cause for you, like made-in-America manufacturing has been with WeatherTech?
I’d hope so. Because once people really get educated on the inferior, potentially unsafe feeding systems that are out there, I think they’ll definitely want the safest feeding system. I’ve been in some large supermarket-type pet stores with bowls that say “Dishwasher-safe.” That’s great. But why don’t they say “Pet Safe”? They say, “Caution: for pet use only.” What does that tell you? If it’s not safe enough for my fellow human beings I’m not using this bowl for my pet. [There’s] another label: It’s a ceramic bowl that says “Dishwasher-safe” and “Caution, for pet use only.” It’s infuriating.
You’ve always said that WeatherTech’s Super Bowl TV ads are worth the expense because of how much exposure the brand gets and how viewers react to them. How did your last Super Bowl spot, which showed construction of the new plant where you’re going to make PetComfort, perform?
It’s always been (about) building a brand, a reputation, an ideology, setting an example for people investing in America, and every time we place an ad in front of 100 million or so people that are patriotic like we are, I would assume the vast majority of people [like] what we’re doing and how we’re doing it and where we’re doing it. You have to back that up with a great product.
After you ran this year’s Super Bowl ad, one reporter asked if the brand was implying support for President Trump’s desire to build a wall between the US and Mexico, an idea that was picked up on social media. How did you respond?
It was ridiculous. It was a pathetic journalist trying to make something out of nothing. We were building an American factory to provide jobs and dreams for American workers and citizens. We didn’t respond via our own social media. It was offensive.
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