Kill’em with Kittens

By Bethany Showers

Have you ever seen a Buzzfeed video, laughed for days about it, but kept thinking about the products featured in the ad? For example, consider the “Dear Kitten” videos, where famous voice-actor/Youtuber, Ze Frank voices a grouchy cat mentoring a young kitten. In this famous series, which has collectively received over one million views, the company Friskies is featured as the sponsor every time. Because of this video, “#DearKitten” became popular on Twitter without any additional work on Friskies’ part, showing how powerful social media can be (Cullers).

Inbound Marketing
Social media can be a wonderful platform for marketing, especially because it allows a business to communicate with a community of people at once. According to Schwom and Snyder, it “allows interactive communication” and is “eas[ier] to keep up to date” (85). When you’re outlet is easy to use and easy to see, it’s understandable why so many people log in as soon as they can to start advertising, but there are many things to keep in mind. The language online is a little different from our everyday casual and business jargon. New forms of marketing are being formed and old forms are almost detested when they are spotted on common social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. It may be difficult, but in order to be adaptable to this changing culture, businesses everywhere need to learn how to keep up.

One of these new forms of marketing is known as “inbound marketing.” Coined by the marketing company, HubSpot, inbound marketing is “about creating and sharing content with the world. By creating content specifically designed to appeal to your dream customers, inbound attracts qualified prospects to your business and keeps them coming back for more” (HubSpot). This is also known as “content marketing,” meaning a company provides its customers/clients with informative or interesting content instead of products (Shwom and Synder 185). This kind of marketing brings in those who would not have paid attention to a regular ad and entices them to watch a persuasive video, view a powerful photo, or think deeply about an eloquently compelling topic, all the while having the company in the back of their minds.

This method of marketing follows a specific flow of viewer evolution, according to HubSpot. In the following image, viewers are at first strangers who are attracted to a site or content-based ad. As they are attracted, they transform into “visitors” and then are converted into “leads,” then official “customers” and finally “promoters” themselves! Each tier has a list of social media outlets these types of consumers were led by, such as the “visitor” being only likely blog links or keywords or the “customers” being led by specific emails and workflows. Once a consumer becomes a “promoter,” they are expected to promote the company to the stranger and the cycle begins again.

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For example, this type of content marketing was front and center in the “Dear Kitten” ads for the cat food, Friskies. Executed by the popular content sharing network, Buzzfeed, this video series is an example of “positive advertisements,” or marketing that works and brings in more consumers. The “Dear Kitten” videos portray two adorable animals, proven to access of more attentive and positive response in people (“Why Babies and Other Things Are Cute, Explained”), one older cat mentoring a young kitten about life. Already attracted to such a scene, people are most likely to watch until the end for the video includes both cute images and humorous jokes, such as portraying the classic stereotype of a grouchy yet sophisticated old cat “hiss[ing] at [the new kitten] the customary 437 times” before beginning to educate the newcomer (Buzzfeed). With 23, 467, 873 views, it’s safe to say this video was a success, beginning the cycle of inbound marketing from visitors toward promoters.

Creating Community
Marketing can use or create a community to persuade others to trust them. If there are many “likes,” “shares,” and/or “views” on a post, this is social proof of the company’s credibility. According to Shwom and Synder, credibility is “an audience’s belief that you have expertise and are trustworthy based on your knowledge, character, reputation, and behavior” (165). Social proof is a tier of credibility. People follow those who they respect, such as tangible characters, family members, friends, neighbors, etc. So, it’s helpful for consumers to see those respected people portrayed in marketing attempts. In traditional advertisements, testimonials with names or recommendations from trusted figures, such as doctors, satisfied this need for social proof of a company’s credibility.

An example of this community for social proof would be the online clothing company, ModCloth’s post on Facebook on August 31st of two cats in ModCloth shipping boxes. In the post, the company linked to the instagram account who had originally posted the photo. This shows both social proof of the company’s credibility and evidence that HubSpot’s theory on the inbound marketing cycle is accurate. The customer in that moment became the promoter and the company awarded them for it by posting on the main Facebook page.

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Figure 2: Cute Kitten Post

This prompted others to upload photos of their own pets in ModCloth boxes, creating a community of animal lovers and ModCloth consumers. This post, like the “Dear Kitten” videos, utilized the “cute science” of kittens in order to draw in more Facebook users and the company’s already-satisfied customers proves the company’s credibility through the ever-present community and social proof.

However, if an advertisement is not done right (not as convincing, lacks the social proof aspect, etc.) netizens, or internet users, might not respond to advertisements as well. It’s always important to double check your wording, spelling, etc. in a post; otherwise, netizens will could counterattack the marketing attempt. These advertisements are definitely negative advertisements, or ads that do not work as well. For example, in 2013, PepsiCo launched an ad depicting a can of Pepsi soda wearing a cape similar to the Coca Cola logo with the tagline, “We wish you a scary Halloween!” However, the message was fairly ambiguous and some viewer found it humorous, because many thought, as Food Dive says, “Hey! Pepsi wants to be Coke!” (Riddell 2013). Afterwards, an unaffiliated consumer posted an edit of the ad with a different tagline reading, “Everybody wants to be a hero!” In this way, the competitor’s mistake both benefited Coca Cola and transformed one of their customers into a promoter. However, this was a bad blow to PepsiCo, because their ad was misconstrued and thus changed in a negative way for them.

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Figure 3: Unsuccessful Ad

Conclusion
While social media can be enormously helpful for a company’s growth if used correctly and effectively, it can also prove to be detrimental to a business’s future. However, the best maneuver seems to be content/inbound marketing. This form entices the viewer into seeing the company’s page or message, at the least. This starts a convincingly effective flow of evolution for the consumer from stranger to eventual customer and finally promoter his or herself for said company. Many choose this path of promotion without pay because the internet offers a fascinating bright light of fleeting fame. For the ModCloth user on Instagram with her cats in the boxes, having her photo shared on the company’s website gives her and her cats a feeling of popularity and momentary fame. This was enough incentive for the other consumers to promote using their own pets. In order to be successful on this relatively new online frontier, trust the customers to promote. Set them on a path toward trusting your business, loving your business, and finally wanting to promote for your business online. In this way, your business’s marketing will almost move on its own.

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