Who let the dogs out? How puppies and kittens became the new social media rockstars | HT Brand Leadership Series

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Who let the dogs out? How puppies and kittens became the new social media rockstars

  • Agam Chaudhary
  • September 03, 2019

Are you active on social media? Of course you are! (And, if you aren’t, more power to you!)

So, what images does the word ‘influencer’ evoke in your mind?

For the majority, it would be a mix of the following: exquisite locales, chiselled bodies, bikini bods, beautiful faces, wide-angle lenses, enviable machines and time-lapse videos.

That’s been the case for most individuals who’ve garnered large audiences by showcasing dream-worthy lifestyles. They’ve been courted by an endless number of brands looking at promotions through the relatively authentic ‘non-traditional advertising’ vis-a-vis the celebrity push.

Though like with most trends that have a relatively low barrier of entry, the influencer trend, too, suffered from the ‘curse of too many’.

The content became predictable, boring and even wannabe—to the point that some governments had to issue advisories against some for their destructive impact (case-in-point, the tulip harvests in the Netherlands).

Slowly, ‘the influenced’ stopped giving a damn. Partly because it all became banal, a bit because what these people were selling was mostly staged and partly because the hungry-to-sell-themselves influencers added another layer of selling to the products they were pitching.

One thing we know for sure? Very few people like being sold to.

While most people were trying to become celebrities, a college student named Matt Nelson started a Twitter account called We Rate Dogs. Started in 2015, it featured photo submissions of dogs. Users could rate the pooches upwards of 11 on a scale of 10.

The photos were cute, the commentaries endearing and the style humorous. The account quickly amassed followers, and was featured by media outlets across the globe. 

Today, the account has 8.3 million followers on Twitter and 1.1 million followers on Instagram. The brand has an online store, a published book and sees more than 1,000 submissions every day.

That’s just one account. Jiffpom the Pomeranian has 9 million followers, Doug the Pug has 3.7 and Grumpy Cat (yes, a cat that looks grumpy) has 2.4 million.

If you head to Reddit, also known as the front page of the internet, and add up the subscriber numbers on animal-based subreddits (that is IF you’re able to finish the mammoth task), your eyes would water looking at a number that could run into hundreds of millions.

Why are animals, especially pets, seeing such a meteoric rise in online popularity?

The primary reason would be unconditional love, with ‘unconditional’ being the operative term.

As mentioned earlier, the moment you start selling something to someone, the traction in communication breaks down. Being sold to immediately evokes a sense of distrust in the minds of consumers. However, when it comes to pets, it’s very hard for people to associate them with having an agenda. That’s because pets, specifically dogs have always served us with love and affection without asking for anything in return (my beagle being an exception). So it becomes very easy for brands to promote their offerings by sliding them in a cute setup, with the pet as the anchor. Most people will pay attention to the antics and cuteness factor, while the offering of the brand will be registered by-the-by. Unless, of course, the offering is pet relevant, which in itself is a match made in heaven.

Another factor to consider is the lack of negative emotion related to animals. I could be jealous of a celebrity who ‘has had it easy’; I could dislike an influencer because of his trashy taste, but I could never ever dislike an animal due to jealousy, opposing ideals or a mismatched persona. The human factor of ‘dislike through comparison’ does not exist when it comes to animals (for most humans at least). Hence, animals score very highly on the likability factor. This, in turn, means better rates of subscription, engagement and even conversion. 

Finally, animals, especially pets, are known to raise the levels of serotonin in humans. They make us happier and calmer. We get into a state of Zen around pets. We become much more immune to disruption and amenable to new ideas. It’s that perfect state of mind that marketers would want their existing and prospective customers to be in while interacting with their respective brands. 

Could you think of any other reason why retail giant Amazon would have dogs featured on error pages? 

That those dogs have their own fan following is just a cherry on the cake!

Agam Chaudhary
CMO, Digitalabs-Digital Wing of Laqshya Media Group

Agam pioneers a team of talented digital marketing individuals. According to him, it is not just enough to have a web presence – you have to be constantly in the running for the best! He thrives to do just that, which is providing end-to-end, highly customizable and personalized solutions that jazzes up a brand’s online presence and gives it a glocal flavour.