Laura Petrolino

What Cats Can Teach Us About Content Creation

By: Laura Petrolino | February 22, 2016 | 

What Cats Can Teach Us About Content CreationBy Laura Petrolino

It’s no secret cats rule the Internet. Content creation that revolves around cats—whether it be videos, memes, games, photos, or pretty much any other cat-related content—only continues to increase in number and popularity.

I can take a picture of my cat, George, doing just about anything, throw it up on Instagram with cat related hashtags, and within seconds the “likes” come pouring in. George is much more popular than I am (and often I fear he is just using me to ride to stardom).

Online, or off…people are crazy about cats.

Last year was the first CatCon. Here in Portland, we had a Cat Meme Fest to benefit a local non-profit. Grumpy Cat has a net-worth larger than many small countries. I have even schemed with several friends about potential cat businesses to bring us fame and riches.

(These include “cat-ercize personal training and cat sleigh rides during the winter. If you would like to be an investor in either of these future cat business success stories please email me asap.)

Because cat content is so popular, it only makes sense to evaluate what strategies we can take away for our own (non-cat focused) content creation.

To do that, I asked George, our cat content expert, to sit down with me today for an interview.

George and I delve into some very important questions concerning cats, social trends, psychology, and community. The unedited transcript of this interview follows.

Cats and Social Trends

Me: Hi, George. Thanks for joining us today. Let’s just dig into the heart of the matter right away—why do humans love cats so much?

George (George has a baritone, aristocratic (or should I say aristoCATic—hahaha, I crack myself up) British accent for those of you wondering): Yes human. It’s your honor to have me here today and I hope I can translate the extraordinary charismatic essence cats bring to the Internet in terms you can understand. Very simply, society has been infatuated with cats throughout history. The Internet just provides a platform to extend that infatuation through linked communities in a very easy, sharable way.

Me: Ah, fascinating. So what you are saying is the Internet serves as a “steroid” of sort for our pre-existing fascinating with cats. In other words, the Internet didn’t create the trend, just amplified one that was already there?

George: Of course that’s what I’m saying. As an article in the New Republic points out, if you look back through Western culture, you see cats being leveraged for content creation as early as the ninth century. As time has passed cat-related content has had a place in whichever medium was most popular at the time—be that verse, literature, art, photography, theatre, movies, or the like. Miles Orvell, a cultural historian at Temple University stated it well when he said, “It’s not so much (the Internet) creating this interest in cats, it’s more exploiting this interest that was already there.”

Me: So George, what can communications pros learn from this to inform their own content creation?

George: Look for social or historical themes to tie into your content creation. No matter how we transform as a society, certain trends and themes follow us. These are simply projected through the popular mediums of the moment. Content creation should always revolve around that which matters, regardless of the platform versus content that works for a particular medium. Content strategy should emphasize long-term resonance, versus the “thing” of the moment. While there is a place for that, your foundational content creation strategy should be based around themes that matter and resonate with your target reader regardless of the platform they are projected on. I like to call that the “nine lives approach to content creation.”

Cats, Content Creation, and Community Building

Me: Community building is a very important part of all content creation and cats seem to naturally evoke very diverse communities everywhere. Why is that?

George: There are many reasons for this, but one primary factor is we cats are relatable to a wide-variety of humans. You might have different views about who should win the presidential election, but very few people will argue the fact a big cat sitting in a tiny box is fantastic to watch. Cats are the tie that binds diverse humans and that creates interesting communities of people who come together just to admire us.

Me: Ah, that’s interesting and makes a lot of sense. It seems to me this would be a valuable lesson for marketers trying to create content for a diverse consumer base, as well. Find a connection that pulls them all together and build community, content, and conversation around that center-point.

George: It’s really boring when you try to sound smart, Laura, but yes….that’s what I’m saying. People like to look for similarities. If you provide them something to connect around, they will. Also remember that people look to different communities to fill different needs, so find your niche.

Projection and Familiarity in Content Creation

Me: Many have said part of the reason cats are so popular is they are so relatable. They are a blank slate, which we can project our own feelings, emotions, and experiences onto. What do you say to that?

George: Yes, that is very much the case. You want to be like us.

Me: Okay, well that’s not exactly what I said.

George: Did I ask your opinion? No. Anyway, you will find some of the most popular cat content leverages common human storylines, it is though those stories people connect (much as we discussed above). Cats also allow humans to connect over stories that might be embarrassing or not acceptable to tell about themselves. So they can project these feelings or experiences on to us, work through them, and/or connect around them safely.

Me: Ah, so it’s about storytelling.

George: Yes, but it’s an inclusive type of storytelling. It’s about telling a story which people can feel part of and relate to the individual storylines in their own lives.

Me: Oh, I wrote a blog post about that last summer, the minimalist approach to brand storytelling.

George: Hmmm…I’m sorry, when all the sudden did this interview become about you? Do you even need me here or do you just want to go ahead and talk about yourself? You certainly don’t need to waste my time for that.

With that, the interview ended and George went off to sniff some catnip, but his insight about content creation definitely is useful to apply to any content marketing strategy.

What would your cat add to this list?

About Laura Petrolino

Laura Petrolino is the chief client officer at Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She also is a weekly contributor to the award-winning PR blog, Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.