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Don't Let Famous Internet Cats Make You A Lazy Marketer

Date published: December 12, 2013
Last updated: December 12, 2013

When Internet memes “go viral,” it usually means (and ought to) that they become über-popular naturally. For example, Lil Bub (a cat) owner Mike Bridavsky randomly posted a silly photo of Bub “enjoying” an ice cream cone and people went nuts! He didn't try to force it to go viral; it just did. He was, in short, sharing and not marketing.

Many of the now-famous Internet cats (Lil Bub, Grumpy Cat, Colonel Meow, Maru) are famous because there was something exceptional about them — because of their looks or their demeanor. Unfortunately, too many cat owners out there make it blatantly obvious that they’re trying to make their cats famous by imitating what made past cats famous. They dress them up in silly costumes or make them do stupid stuff to tug at people’s heartstrings or pounce on people's funny bones.

Enter a cat named Jack Gepetto, “the latest Instagram Supercat.” While he is pretty damn cute, it just feels like the owners are trying to make yet another famous Internet cat.

This type of (ahem) copycatting isn’t limited to Internet kittehs, either. Lots of marketers are equally guilty of using such desperate tactics. Everyone wants to outperform their competitors, but when beating the competition becomes your biggest goal, you’ve just lost sight of your company’s overall objective. For marketers, that goal should be getting customers into the sales funnel.

Most things simply can’t be replicated

When an organization creates a memorable commercial or hosts a unique public event (this gem was discovered in 2009), that experience is immediately associated with that brand. Any other company that even remotely tries to do the same thing will be called out as an imitator. And they should be.

Dorito’s Crash the Superbowl campaign has been going strong since 2006, and it’s helped video creators and viewers alike engage with their brand in some capacity. It has also given Dorito's customers and potential customers a personal connection to the brand. Can you picture another company trying to initiate the same type of campaign?

What it all boils down to is creating something useful for your prospective customers — the ones you know like the back of your hand.

Do you REALLY know your audience?

Media list and audience analysis programs are wonderful, but they can do only so much. There’s no doubt that you’ll eventually have a grasp on what your audience does and what they want, but different audiences have different ways of communicating with one another. If your ebook, pitch, or guide was written in a manner that’s appropriate for us highfalutin PR people, would an audience of construction workers or stay-at-home moms also hang on to every word? If you push your PR piece out to regular people, will they view you as a professional or as a phony looking for link juice or a brand mention?

There are a number of ways to “get” your audience. Do more than just sit behind a computer — go out and get to know them. Talk to them and ask upfront what kinds of things they find useful! As marketers, we often become brand advocates for our clients (which sometimes blinds us from reality) and automatically think that everything we produce is “shareable.” But it takes time, thought, and effort to find the truth.

One last thing. Getting your cat to be a popular Internet sensation is entirely LUCK. Marketing campaign success can sometimes get a great boost from luck, but 99.9999 percent of the time, success is a result of a ton of hard work. The agencies that win are those that do all the research to ensure the campaign would work.

In PR and marketing, you can’t ride on the coattails of someone else’s success, and there’s no replicating that magic. In short, be original, and never assume anything about your audience!

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