Has Feline Selling Power Reached Caturation Point?

cats (1)

Originally published on the Café Create blog. If you’re looking for a charming integrated creative agency outside of London, it would be an excellent place to start. You might even get a coffee made by me if you’re lucky…

Sex sells. That’s rule 101 in advertising, right?

In the past you could be forgiven for assuming that was the case, but times have changed.

Anyone working in advertising now can tell you, it’s all about the cats. They sell everything, no matter the product or category; fluffy little kittens will get your campaign more eyeballs and shift more product off shelves than a group of topless women jumping out of an airplane selling washing machines.

There is no end to the products that cats can push.  Milk (an obvious one), price comparison sites  (if it’s not meerkats, it’s just cats)  phones (tenuous at best) and now biscuits. With the new ‘sweeet’ campaign, Mcvities are the latest to subscribe to the school of catvertising. (Oh hold that thought, since originally publishing, we now have Three UK with ‘Sing it Kitty’).

The Mcvities campaign called for some serious research that was a year in the making. The problem? Own-brand was taking a huge chunk out of their market share and Mcvities needed to bite back. The solution? Kittens. Lots of them. Before I go any further, let me add a disclaimer. I like the Mcvities campaign. I’m a certified cat lover and have a chocolate biscuit habit that won’t quit, so I was always going to be receptive.

The part I have some difficulty swallowing, is how the insight of the campaign is being reported. “Inspired by the insight that identified the power of the biscuit moment – an intangible sense of reward and comfort, playing on big emotional cues of nostalgia and family. The campaign emphasises the feeling people have when they eat a biscuit.”

While I am pretty emotionally invested in my biscuits, I don’t think there’s a year’s worth of research in there. The beauty of the ad is in the execution; the cute factor. Kittens don’t have anything to do with biscuits, let’s not pretend they do. It’s really not that complicated.

Cats are cute. People like cute and it gets their attention. Add in the sharing aspect of social media and there’s more incentive than ever to make ads that double up as shareable content.

Still, as an industry it’s time to look ourselves in the eye and ask some hard questions. Do cats really make smart commercial sense or are they just a lazy selling shortcut? Are we close to reaching caturation point? If you’re toying with the idea of putting cats in your marketing, it might be wise to have a look at our handy catvertising flow diagram first. We’ve also profiled some other famous catvertising to get you started.

o2.

In my humble opinion, o2’s ‘Be more dog’ campaign fell short. There was no product connection. Cats and phones? Any cat owner can tell you that’s a dangerous combination. Too many chewable parts. If you didn’t see the original ad and just saw in-store advertising or posters on the tube you were likely left feeling rather confused. Not to mention, the cat in the advert wasn’t even cute!

Cravendale.

A trailblazer before its time. Cats and milk, inspired! Bar the slight niggle that cows milk is actually bad for cats… The recall rates for this campaign were high and it was considered a resounding success when it launched. A couple of years on and this is still probably my favourite cat ad. It was entertaining, memorable and helped differentiate Cravendale as a stand-out milk brand.

Beyond Catvertising.

It’s not just advertising either, the cat trend continues apace in the social world and the physical one. When cats aren’t busy bringing in the ad dollars they can be found setting up social networks like showmecats.com, billed as the facebook for cats. Yes, really. Or alternatively, gracing Londoners’ with their presence at venues like Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium, London’s first cat cafe which opens later this year. It goes to show that on the occasions that they venture beyond the warm spot by the window, cats truly are an entrepreneurial species.

Will people start to cotton on to the commercial pulling power of cats or will just they keep going ‘aaaww’ and buying into it? Only time will tell. In the meantime, we say if you can’t beat them, join them. That’s why we’re no longer promoting on traditional social channels and will be bringing you further company updates through showmecats.com using the profile of Rags, the office cat. By all means, connect with him, he’s proving quite popular.

Happy catvertising!

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