The popularity of silly cat videos has nothing to do with the type of content people want to consume. Their popularity has everything to do with how people want content to make them feel.
New research supports this supposition. After surveying nearly 7,000 Internet users on Internet cat consumption, researcher Jessica Gall Myrick discovered the motivations behind it and emotional benefit it delivers. People mostly watch cat videos as a means of mood management because of their potential to improve their mood. In fact, even those who use them as an excuse to procrastinate tend to temper any post-viewing guilt with feel-good fuzziness, as viewers describe their post-viewing mood as hopeful, happy, and content even if they felt anxious, annoyed, or sad before watching them.
Marketers need to pay better attention to how they make people feel.
There is no shortage of causes that deserve consideration, topics primed to produce social outrage, or advertising that aims at creating feelings of scarcity (ads that aim to create feelings of fear, inadequacy, or make people feel unknowledgeable). Most of it, not unlike media coverage, is commonly negative or neutral. The net outcome is not surprising — it makes people feel bad or, more commonly, nothing at all.
Sooner or later, you have to wonder: Is the marketing content your organization produces adding to the anxiety or helping make people hopeful? Are you aligned with brands that promote happiness like Apple (innovation), Coke (happiness), Lowe's (empowerment) and Amazon (simplicity) or struggling with ads that aim to demean, disparage, or attack others? Do you leave people wondering why they need your product or do you have the sense that somehow your product or service makes things better?
Sure, there are cases where negative advertising can work, especially if it is designed to capitalize on contempt for a perceived adversary. But such tactics are time sensitive to the cultural perceptions such as a decades long run of "dumb dad" ads. And social media makes for several splendid fails every year.
Don't get me wrong. The point here isn't to scrub away any rough edges if it fits. The point is to ask yourself what emotions your content is or isn't tapping into and making the appropriate adjustment in much the same way Charles Revson once did as the pioneering cosmetics executive behind Revlon.
"In the factory we make cosmetics. In the store we sell hope," Revson once said.
Hope and happiness are powerful promises, ones that underscore many successful brands. They also cut to the quick of what motivates people in B2B and B2C spaces. Consumers want to make their lives and the world around them a little better. So do business owners. All of them might have a different outtake on what objectives best accomplish those overarching goals (comfort or exhilaration, opportunity or security), but almost all of them are rooted in hope and happiness.
When companies and content creators can't deliver on either, people turn to more than two million silly cat videos (2014) that have chalked up more than 26 billion views. Why? Not because marketers need to load their stream with silly cat videos but because these cats can deliver what most content misses — a few moments of mood managing happiness (even when these heroes look a bit grumpy).