Cats: funny, cute, grumpy, fat, small – the internet and social media is overrun with them. So we ask ourselves – what makes cat related content go viral? What lessons, from this seemingly innocuous shared ‘cat content’, can we learn and incorporate into our internet marketing efforts?

Firstly – most of the cat content we see is in the form of a meme. Having said that, some of the most successful viral internet marketing campaigns have been centred on cats as a theme. It is important to note that a meme and viral content is not the same thing, so let’s define the two:

Internet Meme: a mimicked theme, such as a video, image or website where original content is altered, copied and then distributed from person to person via the internet. A meme also focuses more on ordinary people and events, contains humour, is simple and repetitive, is most often created by amateurs and is intended purely for entertainment.
Here’s an example of an  Original Video  and a  Meme thereof, and there’s more on an incredibly popular website which was launched using a cat meme sporting the phrase ‘I Can Has Cheezburger’, contains an abundance of memes for you to look at.

Viral Content: highly engaging authored content which is shared, such as a video, image, article or a website. Viral content is often professionally created and is driven to make a specific topic or object (could be brand or product) memorable. Content is either surprising or awe-inspiring, is often positive and is always interesting and distributable.
Here’s an example of viral content: Cats with thumbs

What makes content spread across networks like wildfire?
As we can see in the Viral Content example above, Cravendale Milk got over 7 million YouTube views with this particular advert. They also as a result of the ad, realised an 8% increase in sales and 10% increase in brand awareness.

So what lessons can we implement from this?

1. Authentic

Key Point: Unique concepts that have not been seen elsewhere and an original angle to a topic is the very foundation of what makes content go viral.

Lesson: Good viral content is original and different to everything else people have seen. By creating a random idea using concepts that are generally accepted to not fit together or are seemingly irrelevant to each other, you can create a completely unique idea – such as ‘cats with thumbs’, or the mascot ‘Mr Wolfdog’ which represents the brand – Old Spice – in one of their marketing campaigns. It is important to not be too ridiculous. Whatever is used, still needs to somehow link to the intended message. The Old Spice ‘Mr Wolfdog’ is central to their campaign for the recently launched ‘Wild Collection’.


2. Interesting

Key Point: Content needs to tell a story and fully engage the attention of the audience.

Lessons: When using viral internet marketing to capture audience attention, the content needs to be strike a chord somehow and appeal to shared audience tastes, needs and habits.

For a more niche market, The Dollar Shave Club Video  is a good example of an ad which deals with customer needs in an entertaining, interesting manner.

If the target audience is less niche, such as a brand selling milk, then choosing something with widespread appeal such as cats, will work.

For more information on the ground rules in creating content that grabs attention – read the-top-5-cs-of-successful-social-media-marketing article.


3. Wow Factor

Key Point: People remember things that make them stop, think and say ‘wow’.

Lessons: Whether you invoke something jaw-dropping, incite belly grabbing laughter, ignite emotion or provoke introspection – your content needs to blow audience response out of the water and be utterly wow. Think of the famed ‘Nando’s adverts – they get people talking because they are funny and often controversial. ‘Wow’ can be quirky, serious or fun, but bottom line – it needs to make your brand name stick!

Similar to the ridiculous image of the Dachshund chasing a Rhino – the below print advert has a similar appeal. Cat owners know that this is not so far-fetched!

4. Positive

Key Point: Positive, inspiring or humorous messages garner greater interest and a more preferable association than those which include a shock-factor.

Lessons: Because viral content will illicit emotion, it is beneficial to a brand if that content stirs a positive response. To be positive, one does not need to always be funny. The recent Dove Real Beauty Sketches advert  has gone viral as it elicits a positive message. Similarly, the Coca-Cola Security Cameras  advert was incredibly popular and was spread via Social Media and email as a genuine feel-good message.


5. Usable

Key Point: For content to go viral – it should be easy to share with everyone.

Lessons: Content should be easily shareable and should either solve a problem or inform the audience. As an example: blog articles should be easy to share across social media channels and via email through quickly accessible, clickable icons. Video’s posted on websites, blogs or social media, should be regularly checked for view-ability. There is nothing worse than wanting to watch something and realising that the link has somehow expired.

Even if the message is humorous or inspiring, it should ultimately solve a problem, or reference something which does. This reference can be a particular service or product, or even the advantage or benefit of a service or product. The advert Ship my pants by American retailer ‘Kmart’ is an excellent example of this.

For a business which wishes to portray its products and services in a professional manner – a meme is not the answer. We recommend that more time be taken to develop potentially viral content as the best approach to this form of internet marketing. A great, memorable piece will take time and due consideration – don’t expect results overnight. Use the viral greats (some of which we have referenced in this article) as a benchmark. If you do engage in this form of internet marketing, check that you cover all your creative and practical bases to ensure that this exercise boosts your brand in the way you intend it to.

At The Formula, we have the creativity and technical ability to help you with all aspects of your internet marketing. From developing a sound strategy to creating outstanding marketing materials, delivering your campaign and measuring impact – we are a full service marketing agency that will bring you solid marketing results. Give Garth Dahl or Shiraz Khatib a call on 021 556 5661 or email us: 

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