Laura Petrolino

What Cats Can Teach Us About Effective Content Creation

By: Laura Petrolino | January 13, 2020 | 
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What Cats Can Teach Us About Content Creation

It’s no secret cats rule the internet.

And there are many psychological and psycho-social reasons why this is the case.

If you thought cats were just a passing internet trend, you’d be mistaken.

Content creation that revolves around cats—whether it’s 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 my Instagram Story and be flooded with responses.

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.

A few years ago, the first CatCon launched.

Here in Portland, we have a Cat Meme Fest to benefit local non-profits.

Grumpy Cat, who sadly passed away last year, had a net worth larger than many small countries.

And I’m pretty sure Betsy Decillis includes her cat as an account coordinator in new business pitches. 

Because cat content is so popular, it only makes sense to evaluate which 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—British accent for those of you who were 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 sorts 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 throughout Western culture, you see cats being used for content creation as early as the ninth century. Cat-related content has had a place in whichever medium was most popular at the time—be that verse, literature, art, photography, theatre, and movies. 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.”

Content Creation Cat Style

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. Don’t let the bing and bang of a new medium distract you from the foundational rules of communication and relationships. The distribution might change, the communication stays the same. Much like Abe Lincoln and the telegraph. 

Cats, Content Creation, and Community Building

Me: Community building is a very important part of all content creation and cats have an ability to unite 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 creates interesting communities of people who come together just to admire us.

Creating Content for a Diverse Community

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. 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 categorize themselves based on 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 relatable. They are a blank slate, upon which we can project our own feelings, emotions, and experiences. 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. And it is through 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 humans can project these feelings or experiences onto us, work through them, and/or connect around them safely.

Cats Know How to Master Storytelling

Me: Ah, so it’s all about storytelling.

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

Me: Oh, I wrote a blog post about inclusive brand storytelling last year, remember? 

George: Hmmm…I’m sorry, when 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 abruptly 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 chief marketing officer for Spin Sucks, an integrated marketing communications firm that provides strategic counsel and professional development for in-house and agency communications teams. She is a weekly contributor for their award-winning blog of the same name. Spin Sucks. Join the Spin Sucks   community.