When it comes to the Internet, cute critters like Grumpy Cat and Boo the Pomeranian reign supreme. It’s not just the adorable factor that gets the attention – and money – of legions of fans. Behind Grumpy and Boo are clever, well-orchestrated IMC campaigns that have propelled them beyond the fame of memes and viral videos to global stardom resulting in books, calendars, stuffed toys and most important, revenue.
Most Internet-famous pets come from humble beginnings, like an unassuming YouTube video, a #CatsOfInstagram Instagram account or a casual Facebook post. Some enjoy 15 minutes of fame and fade into the scenery. Others enjoy long-term success, but only with help from marketing and communications tactics. Here are the IMC secrets that have kept both Grumpy and Boo top of mind in this cluttered pet market.
1. Traditional public relations coupled with social media.
Grumpy Cat would not be the sensation she is without an incredibly strong social media presence, coupled with enough PR savvy to launch a media tour including office visits at outlets like Buzzfeed. Not long after she gained popularity online, she was front page news in The Wall Street Journal and New York magazine. She’s also been a star on the stage of major events like SXSW, reminding us that being “on the ground” is still an important part of the mix. Boo the Pomeranian, aka “The Cutest Dog in the World,” is another great example of IMC in action.
2. Product associations.
Among her many resulting merchandise deals, Grumpy is licensed with toy companies like Gund, has her face all over wall and desktop calendars, has her own “Grumpy Guide” book and even a line of coffee. She’s talent in commercials for products like Honey Nut Cheerios. She was chosen as an icon representative of the entire Internet with a giant Grumpy Cat banner flown around Comcast’s headquarters following the first formal victory for Net Neutrality. And in August it was announced Grumpy Cat would get her own animated waxwork at Madame Tussauds in Los Angeles. Boo’s trajectory has been similar to Grumpy Cat’s, resulting in 4 books, a Virgin America “spokesdog” deal, calendars, toys and more.
3. Celebrity endorsements.
Appearances with celebrities like Ian Somerhalder have boosted Grumpy Cat’s signal even further. Boo has the good fortune of belonging to a Facebook employee, so a Facebook page was a logical first step. He got the Internet’s attention, however, after Ke$ha tweeted a link to the page and called Boo her “new boyfriend.” From there, Boo attracted the attention of a publisher, and social, PR (with hits including Good Morning America), content marketing, video and other linked tactics have supported the merchandise that’s popped up over time.
4. Content marketing targeted to a specific audience.
Content marketing on sites like Tumblr supports the work done on social for both Grumpy Cat and Boo. (Please don’t forget the importance of boosting with Tumblr by the way.) Viral video and memes are produced by Grumpy and Boo’s teams in addition to fans around the world, visually stoking the animals’ fan clubs.
Capitalizing on the world’s infatuation with adorable animals is the dream of every pet owner with a unique-looking furry friend.It doesn’t hurt that Boo and Grumpy Cat puts a smile on most faces, but without a smart plan to spread the word and keep interest long-term, she may have disappeared into the annals of viral animal videos like many others. IMC applied in the right way to a face that could launch a thousand likes is the sure recipe for success. Knowing people will voraciously consume content about these stars through virtually any channel, both online and offline, opens up a world of possibilities for a comprehensive strategy that takes advantage first and foremost of what much of the world does best – spending an extraordinary amount of time looking at animals. From there, the right pet marketed to the right audience in the right places will win big.