Grumpy Cat – all hail the queen

Thursday 7 December 2017 by George Ryder

20,774,158. That’s the number of YouTube views for the original Grumpy Cat video. The 55-second clip shows the famous feline lying on her back, face to camera, as her owner tickles her in an attempt to elicit a joyous response. But the pussy’s face is unmoved. Grumpy Cat’s frown is relentless; it is fixed, ceaseless, infinite. For all we know she could be feeling the light of god, but the genetics will never let it show. It's as if her face has been set in stone since time immemorial. Yet this grimace has spawned an empire. There are more videos with views in the millions, countless memes, books and even a film – Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever. And last month, Forbes cemented her internet supremacy by ranking her the most influential pet on social media with a total reach of 68 million, fending off stiff competition from the earless Waffles the Cat and fashionista Doug the Pug.

Those are some impressive stats. And it got me thinking; with such colossal numbers, shouldn’t every business have an animal ambassador? At The Frameworks, there’s been general chatter about getting a pet. The original assumption was that it would be a) fun to have a resident pooch or kitty, and b) we would benefit from the scientifically proven effects of increased morale, higher productivity and reduced stress. But now it appears that it could also be key to our social media strategy.


So, can The Frameworks learn some new tricks from the internet sensation Grumpy Cat? I think so.

Firstly, we’d need a creature that stands out. In Forbes’ ranking, most of the animals are either cats or dogs who sport a genetic deformity that comes across as cute. And that’s why I’ve gone for Clara the Chicken.

Rescued from a battery farm, she comes to us in a featherless, decrepit state, but we nurse her back to full health and plumage. She has abnormally bulbous eyes and can only run backwards. We create her own Instagram account. We dress her up in funny clothes. We post artfully composed photos of the delicious omelets made from her eggs. And as expected, Clara (and The Frameworks) breaks the internet. She usurps Grumpy Cat as the world’s most influential pet. Ed Sheeran pens a ballad in her honour. Google+ pays us millions for exclusive Clara content, and Mark Zuckerberg can only watch in despair as Facebook users flock to the once maligned platform – all to watch the birth of Clara’s first chick.

Thought vapidity

The Roman poet Juvenal once said, “Two things only the people anxiously desire – bread and circuses.” And nothing has changed in 2,000 years. Meaningful thought leadership is no match for vacuous and inane animal antics. The audio book for Plato’s Republic has a measly 377,558 YouTube views – I doubt Grumpy Cat gets out of bed for that. Stalin once said of Russian tank production, “Quantity has a quality of its own”, and in an age of likes, shares and retweets, can insightful truths and thought-provoking content compete with animals that make us lol?

Keep ‘em scrolling

The truth is that there’s no silver bullet to any of this. Not even Clara can lay you the golden impressions egg. The companies that succeed at racking up the impressions and earning engagement do so because they put a lot of thought into what they say, how they say it, and who they say it to. And they do it consistently. Take Gymbox for example. Its tone of voice permeates every aspect of its business, from posters on the London Underground to the shampoo dispensers in its showers. Lego is another company that does it well. This ad communicates everything the brand stands for in a single word. But it’s not just adverts; this Bloomberg article about Paul Krugman has the confidence to inject fun and levity by paying homage to side-scrolling 16-bit beat ‘em ups.

To conclude, a business cannot rest its marketing hopes on a pet tortoise. And as entertaining as it would be for Tim Cook to have an orangutan unveil the new iPhone, I doubt it would serve the brand well in the long term. You should also carefully consider whether spending megabucks on leveraging Grumpy Cat’s or Doug the Pug’s vast reach would translate into sales for your service or product. Just know your audience and keep it relevant.

Oh, and get an office pet – those things will brighten up your day.


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