The Power of Cute

If you ask anyone that knows me well, they will roll their eyes and tell you how obsessed I am with cats. I like to intertwine cats into my daily conversations and included it in my “fun f(cats)” when I won the Hillside Senior Sandwich. Even my friends tag me in cat photos on Instagram on a daily basis.Screen Shot 2016-03-17 at 2.37.57 PM.png But what is it about cats that makes myself and a majority of the population interested in social media cat accounts such as “Grumpy Cat”? Many companies have begun to incorporate cats and other animals into their advertisements as well. There is a monthly average of 30 million searches for the word “cat” on Google. Point blank, cats and animals have become viral on the internet and are dominating the marketing world. Remember the popular Android “Friends Furever” commercial that came out last year?

This ad was shared over 6.4 million times in 2015. With this many clicks and shares for animals, why wouldn’t a company want to continue their advertisements based on animals? People are more inclined to watch a commercial with animals in them because of the emotional pull. The first thing we think of when viewing the Android commercial is “aw how cute!” and we end up watching the entirety of the advertisement. Companies have picked up on the power of cute and are running with it to promote their brands.

A Professor from The Wharton School University of Pennsylvania has been researching “What makes ideas viral and products spread contagiously?” The top 5 traits of viral content that he discovered are surprising, interesting, intense, positive, and actionable (practically useful). The most shareable content evokes strong emotions in the audience, and seeing advertisements of animals does exactly this. Also, the definition of quality has shifted from how much does it cost and who is creating it, to how many and how much are people enjoying the advertisement?


We can also recall the Budweiser 2015 Superbowl commercial about the “Lost Dog” and how obsessed everyone was with it due to its adorability. A strategy director from a brand consultancy explains how a very important aspect of social media marketing is that you engage with your audience more directly. You want your advertisement to connect and target who you are trying to sell your product to. Therefore, the use of animals in commercials is a great strategy because you really cannot go wrong. It is unlikely you will hear someone appalled from watching a puppy run around in a Budweiser commercial. Also, if you scroll down your Instagram Feed you will come across dozens of cat and other animal accounts. The only downfall to using animals in advertisements is that it is harder to make your brand stand out. With all of this content out there to play around with, you need to go above and beyond to capture your target audience.

IMG_4549.PNGAndroid and Budweiser did a fantastic job with incorporating animals into their advertising campaigns. The main goal for any company is to be able to create a memorable campaign that we can easily connect their brand to, and that is exactly what both of these brands have done. This technique can even extend to the various animal accounts on Instagram. Grumpy Cat went viral because his Dwarfism was unique and stood out to viewers. It was fascinating to follow his travels on Instagram because it was different and entertaining. The power of awe is what differentiates something from going viral and non-viral. Will Nathan, a developer at BuzzFeed, shared his insight that viral content “represent[s] or uncover[s] something pleasurable that we could never have conceived with our own minds” ( Cute animals in various advertisements do exactly this, and that is what has made animals in social media become so popular. I know that I am truly pleased to see cats all over the internet and enjoy my free time with my sidekick feline!IMG_4550.JPG



  1. Great and funny article! Cats and animals convey such a positive feeling, that I guess people are just crazy about them. That power they have has been once more emphasized lately in Belgium. Since Paris attacks, the Belgian police has conducted many interventions in Bruxelles, where the attacks seem to have been planned. In November, tension raised to its maximum, as the fear of another attack was very high: schools and public transports were closed and many interventions were taking place. The city was basically locked down. The police explicitly ask people not to communicate or send pictures of whatever was happening in order to help them do they work and not give hints about their moves to the people they were tracking. Belgians then decided to flood Twitter with #Brusselslockdown and to randomly publish pictures of cats.!PnUtta3Esgz5w/ This happened once more just two days ago, when the investigation lead to other interventions: i guess this is a great example to see just how animals have this great power to make us laugh and be positive.

  2. I fall exactly into the group that you are talking about in this blog post. I am a sucker for animals and their cuteness! I think this marketing strategy is very smart because what normal person enjoys watching commercials during their favorite show? So in order to keep people in tuned with what you are trying to sell, what better way than to use animals. If a cute puppy is in a commercial, I am 100% watching and focused. Thanks for the insights!

  3. The power of cute is indeed very powerful. Cute animals are one of the things that always get me in advertising (and in life), as well as cute babies and surprise soldier + family reunions. If there was a commercial that combined all three, I would buy whatever the ad was for. I also agree on the insight that it takes something different to really engage customers. It’s one thing to use a cute puppy, but something unique like Grumpy Cat’s dwarfism and my personal favorite, Toast’s (from @toastmeetsworld on Instagram) tongue really inspires a mass following.

  4. As someone who also loves animals, it was interesting to hear why exactly animals are so often a part of viral content. A personal favorite is the Keyboard Cat video – there is a 10 hour Youtube video of it on loop and I genuinely think I would laugh/smile through all 10 hours of it. I wonder what the demographics of animal lovers look like though – it is possible that there are certain types of people who are not emotionally attached to your typical household pets and are therefore not engaged by this type of content at all.

  5. Great post Alexa! Although I’m more of a dog-person myself, I definitely share the same feelings about animals making me more interested in advertisements/posts. One thing that came to my mind in reading this was something I saw on the news about a year ago. A news station’s helicopter followed a seemingly lost dog as it wandered through the city. The live-video exploded on my newsfeeds as everyone was watching to see if someone would find the dog! Although I don’t think this was the most effective way of getting the dog home, it was definitely interesting to see the large amounts of responses that the video was getting in real-time.

  6. I really liked this post, Alexa! I, too, have always been a sucker for “cuteness” on social media, and follow more puppy Instagram accounts than I would care to tell you! I really liked the research on virality that you mentioned has been done by the Wharton Professor. It is great to hear that research is being conducted to determine substantial elements of viral content, as I think we are still trying to figure out what exactly makes content “contagious” and how it represents why people enjoy viewing and sharing a specific type of content on social media.

  7. Awesome article, as I was reading this I was thinking about Budweiser- and then you mentioned it! I think the aspect of being memorable is one thing but also the aspect of timing is HUGE- we have touched on this before, sometimes you can have gold but for whatever reason it doesn’t take off, and people don’t see it. There has be a balance of both, the initial spark has to happen under the right elements for it to take off.

  8. While I’m not a huge fan of cats (sorry, I’m allergic), I really enjoyed your post and can appreciate the cuteness factor from a distance! I think the Bud commercial was one of the first I remember incorporating animals and more recently, the one that’s come up before, is the Amazon commercial with the miniature pony. I agree that the cuteness factor is what has made a lot of advertisements (and when done properly – brands and products) memorable. With our ability to share content that we emotionally connect to being so easy, marketers have a real opportunity to strike the right chord with its intended audience to make us part of the effort to reach new audiences. Hopefully, people creating content like this are paying attention to research, like that done at Wharton, to identify the right way to help people connect to their content/brand.

  9. I loved this post, Alexa! I love how you were able to take such a fun and adorable topic and apply it to the business world. Not sure if I live under a rock, but I surprisingly had never seen the Android commercial–so cute! The Budweiser one was definitely one of my all time favorites also. I found it very interesting that research is being done on what makes content go viral because I really did think it was pretty random. While those top 5 traits may seem pretty obvious, I think that’s a great piece of information for any company to have when trying to create viral content.

  10. I definitely agree with your analysis that using animals in advertising is effective because of the emotional connection it creates with viewers. We normally want to share tweets/videos/posts with animals in them with our friends, which essentially helps companies spread their brand to even more people. My brother and I are constantly sending each other content that feature dogs. However, using animals in advertisements sometimes creates too much of an emotional connection that we do not want to view the ad. I do not know how effective ASPCA’s ads are at convincing people to donate, since I don’t even watch the ad long enough to know how to donate to the cause. Although for some people who can withstand watching the gut-wrenching commercials, they might be more inclined to donate seeing the sad dogs in need.

  11. Can’t think of anyone that doesn’t take the time to stop and watch an animal video when it pops up on their timeline. There is definitely an irresistible draw to the human-like actions and emotions that some animals display that we can relate to. Before reading this blog post, I did not know that the commercial “Friends Furever” was created and aired by Andriod which leads me to question how effective these type of animal ads are. Sure, it was watched over 6 million times and everyone loved it, but if the product behind the commercial does not get noticed then what is the point of the company paying so much money to put the ad out there in the first place? As a viewer I am all for more animal commercials, but are companies getting much value?

  12. yifanhong04233 · ·

    Totally agree! I love cute animals, including cats, dogs and birds! Sometimes even though I know some posts are advertisments, I would still stop and wacth the photos or videos. For business, using cute animals is a smart move–low cost, no right of portrait, and attractive. Compared with supermodels or movie starts, cute animals have similar effects with a lower cost and risk! Very interesting topic!!

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