That’s right; a case study on the use of kittens (and cats, and a few other animals), in marketing. To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I managed to wrangle this one, but I’m going to run with it and publish it before anyone in the office catches me going all gooey-eyed over kittens.

I found out an interesting fact at the end of last month. Apparently, cats and bacon account for millions of searches every month. Millions! Every month! The word ‘cat’ is searched for in Google an average of 30,400,000 times a month, that’s 30.4 million searches in a thirty day period. Now try and tell me that cats aren’t popular!

Cats rule the internet, it’s a fact.


Today I’m going to explain why you should include cats in your online marketing campaigns

Cats Get Views

You may have noticed that recently o2 jumped on the cat-vertising bandwagon with their ‘be more dog’ campaign. I personally think that the adverts are based around a great concept – be excited about life, be amazed by everything that’s going on with the world, and stop looking so bored all the time. They project these negative emotions on to the humble cat, but without them, there would be no campaign.

I  like the adverts, but it does reiterate to me how much hard work dogs are. They’re so excitable; they wear their heart on their sleeve; they love anyone! Cats are more relaxed, some may even say indifferent, but I like that. I like that I have to work for their trust; I like that they observe me with judgemental eyes, and I like that you can leave them to their own devices most of the time. They’re more like people. I’d never be friends with someone who was a dog incarnate; they’d be too much hard work, and you could never just sit on the sofa with them and eat pizza after a stressful week. (Although according to this video by fatawesome, I might not be friends with a cat either)


Despite this, ‘Be More Dog’ is a definite hit, however I believe by projecting negative personality attributes on to cats, they’re alienating a large part of their potential market. As it stands at the moment, the first ‘Be More Dog’ video that features just the ginger cat, and not a hint of a dog, has had 2,729,868 views on YouTube. Sounds pretty good. In comparison to this, the second video which features dogs, being dogs, has only received 106,478 views to date. Cats win!

If you need more convincing that cats are marketing superstars, let’s have a look a Cravendale. Cravendale provide us with the perfect comparison between cats and other animals. In the same year that Wieden and Kennedy London developed the ‘Cats with Thumbs’ adverts, they also produced ‘Milk Me Brian’. Milk Me Brian features a man enjoying his breakfast cereal, with milk – of course, when he drifts off into a dream world and wonders who first decided to milk a cow. It makes sense for a milk brand to include cows in its commercials. The link between cats and milk is slightly more tenuous. Cats like milk – that’s about as far as it goes, but cats + milk brand = marketing gold.

To put it into perspective:

Milk Me Brian currently has a total of 213,770 views on YouTube.

Cats with Thumbs currently has a total of 7,185,661 views on YouTube.

They were released in the same year, run for the same amount of time, have the same high production costs, and are both promoting milk. What makes them different? The cat! If that wasn’t enough, following the creation of Bertrum and his gang of thumbed-felines, Cravendale saw a 9% increase in sales year on year, a 10% increase in brand awareness, and was included in Adweeks’ ’10 Best Commercials of 2011.’ Thanks to cats with thumbs millions more people now know about Cravendale milk. Chalk that up as a victory for the cats; high five!

Cat giving a high five
 

They Encourage Emotional Attachments to Your Brand

It’s proven that an emotional attachment to your brand can improve your sales figures. Unfortunately, emotion can’t be bought so you need to quickly be able to tap into your audiences’ emotions. People are ruled by their emotions, and this affects every part of life. If you want to be able to influence your audience, you need to be able to attach an emotion to your marketing message, and you’d better make it a good one.

For example, I hate spiders. If a brand I loved started using spiders in their marketing campaigns I’d avoid their products like the plague. No matter how loyal I initially was to that brand. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to build an emotional bond with your customers, why not use cats? People who love cats, love seeing cats. People, who love dogs, still love seeing cats, but love to see them do silly things instead of cute things. Combine that with the fact that cats rule the internet, you have the makings of a successful marketing campaign!

A word of advice: don’t make fun of cats. They have a HUGE following, and in order to reap the benefits of cat-lovers, you need to treat the feline’s right. Ford got it all wrong with this ‘Evil Twin’ advert and encouraged the wrath of cat people everywhere!

 So How Can You Harness the Power of Cats?

In Ed Fry’s ‘Guide to Creating Viral Linkbait and Infographics‘ post over on the Distilled blog, he suggests that if you can’t be kind, add kittens instead. Obviously it may not always be relevant to your post, but if you’re promoting say, a monthly round-up on Facebook, an exciting piece of news, or something funny, it won’t hurt to add a cat into the mix.  


If you don’t think cats will work for you that is okay. Don’t try and force them into any of your marketing activities if they don’t fit. You’ll wind up with content that means nothing and isn’t relevant.

What I really want you to be able to take away from this blog post is the fact that emotions, and emotional associations, can really make a difference to your business. Try and find that catalyst (see what I did there?) that makes people feel something about your brand. It doesn’t have to be furry, or have four legs, but it needs to evoke an emotion (positive is stronger than negative) that they can then associate with you in the future. Get this right, and you’re well on your way to having a successful, maybe even viral, piece of marketing content on your hands.