Dead Cats

Dead Cats

Dead Cats and Other Strange Phenomena in the World of Marketing

 by Dave Cottrell

 Dead cats… what a strange title for an article and what in the world could they have to do with online marketing?

How do dead cats help ME with MY marketing?  Bear with me and learn a bit about the fine art of feline resuscitation! 

Just the other day, a friend of mine sent me an article that amused me somewhat and took me back in time.  It actually had a lot to do with dead cats.

It was touted as something new that has just been discovered in the world of journalism, and has even been given a name by a prominent news magazine out of Boston.  Having been involved in direct sales for so many years, I had to laugh when I read the article.  As Solomon wrote in his famous series of notes from an old preacher, “There is nothing new under the sun.”

What does all this have to do with dead cats?  Keep reading, and I promise to tell you…  dead cats

In 1978, my wife and I were introduced to a company called, “Amway.”  This article is not about Amway, but there is a need for a bit of background here to help explain this sudden fixation with  cats of the non breathing variety.

Amway was and is a tremendously successful direct marketing company and one of the first to become wildly successful using something called, “Multi-level Marketing,” or “MLM.”  Its owners and founders were two entrepeneurs from Ada, Michigan area named Rich DeVos and Jay Van Andel.

As DeVos put it,  “We were just two guys from Ada, Michigan, USA who wanted to have a business of our own. We were two kids (it still feels like that sometimes) who were hungry for success and who wanted to give others the chance to be in business for themselves, too.”


These two men started out in direct sales in the nineteen fifties, eventually buying the company they were representing, and worked out of a refurbished chicken coop!  Yet with hard work, perseverance and the “dead cats” strategy, they built what is now the largest and most successful soap manufacturing companies in the world!  Dead cats

But I digress…

How do dead cats tie in?

Let’s first look at some of the points from the article I read the other day.

The focus of the article was on a “new” way to gain feedback on articles that creates buzz and excitement, and hopefully, makes them go viral.

They spoke of “quirky types of things that show up in your personal social media feeds as GIFs or Internet memes that journalists take a closer look at, hoping to uncover something of significance or interest.”  (I’ll bet you click on those links, especially now that I’ve mentioned them!)

What has surprised journalists about this kind of interest grabbing technique in recent days is how successful it is on the internet!

In the old days, long before the idea of social media was even in the most advanced kind of science fiction, and even before Mark Zuckerberg was a gleam in his daddy’s eye, this kind of marketing worked.

Some called it “back fence telegraph,” or the more common “tell-a-man,” if you’re female or “tell-a-woman,” if you’re male.  It’s the idea that if something is interesting enough, it’s going to get passed on.

Successful people in the direct sales business have made this a fine art, and it’s certainly not new.  It is the idea of putting out an idea that is so interesting, people have to know more.

This is where the dead cats come in, and you are about to find out why I used such an odd title.

You see, when I was first introduced to Amway, back in 1978, I immediately wanted to rush out and tell all my friends about this fantastic new business I had just found out about.  I was so full of enthusiasm and excitement, I just couldn’t wait to blurt it out.

But my friend, who introduced me to the business, told me that simply spilling everything to everybody was not the best or most professional way to do things.  She said there was a better way, which she called, “The Curiosity Approach.”

This approach is used to bring a person to a quiet location where the business can be properly introduced and explained.  What I very quickly discovered is that asking someone to join a business, called “Amway,” was not a very good curiosity approach.  It turned out that most people had heard the name, had a preconceived idea about what it was, and were not one bit interested in what they thought it was.

But when I used the “Curiosity Approach,” creating a level of curiosity in my prospective business partner that gave them a very strong desire to know more, it virtually guaranteed they would come out to a business presentation to find out what was going on.

So this is where the “dead cats” come in.  You see, as the saying goes, “Curiosity killed the cat.  Satisfaction brought it back.”  

If you create enough curiosity in someone, they will do practically anything to satisfy their curiosity.  You read at least to here to find out WHY this article was called “Dead Cats,” didn’t you?

In the online world, this is used all the time.  The article, “What is Curiosity Journalism?”  makes it seem as if this concept is brand new, and in fact, uses this very approach very well!  As the author, Savanna Marie puts it, “Curiosity journalism is a loose term that can encompass anything out of the ordinary that a journalist investigates. Generally speaking, they’re the quirky types of things that show up in your personal social media feeds as GIFs orInternet memes that journalists take a closer look at, hoping to uncover something of significance or interest.”

While what she is writing about is not new, it is something that anybody doing business online should be paying attention to.  Many articles have been written on this very subject, especially about subject lines and blog titles.  These are EXACTLY what Curiosity Journalism is about!

The body of any article, a great meme or a funny gif are only valuable, no matter how well done, if they are seen.  They are like a great direct marketing business.  They are only good if they are being seen.  You get them seen, today, just like we did back in 1978:  You use the natural curiosity of other people.  

If you create a high enough level of curiosity in your email subject line, it will get opened.  If the title of your blog article grabs the attention of your potential readers, they will become readers.  If the article, gif or meme delivers its expectations, it will be even better.

Think about why you read this article.  You wanted to know why I chose the title I chose, right?  That got you to read down to where the reason is finally explained.   Then you read further, because you wanted to know what the whole point was.  After all, why bother to write, if you don’t have a point?

Remember this when you write an article, yourself.  You need to grab attention, and can keep attention for a while using the curiosity affect, but then you must also deliver or your reader will feel cheated.  That not only spoils the article, but it spoils your reputation, as well.

Use curiosity to compel your audience to read your articles.  Use curiosity to compel your audience to read through your article.  But remember WHY you’re writing the article and deliver the content.  

In any article, meme, gif, infographic, slideshare, email, joke, etc., there has to be something in it for the reader.  This is the point of your effort.  Once your audience finishes with what you have created, what are they going to do?  Will they love you, hate you or be indifferent?  (The last one is the bad one!)

If your creation clicks with your audience, gives them a good laugh, creates an “aha” moment, or makes them identify with you in any way, you have succeeded.  The only difference between a good article and one that goes viral is in how well you do your job.

Your goal in direct marketing in the offline world is to get someone to sit down with you in an environment you have some control over to listen to your story.  Your goal in the online world is exactly the same, but with some very distinct differences.

  1. You cannot control your prospect’s environment
  2. You can reach a much wider audience in much less time with the same amount of effort.

It is this last one that you can really take advantage of and need to hone.  If you have to tell everyone individually about your creations, it will be very similar to what you do offline, but with the disadvantage of not being able to control their environment.

But if you can get them TALKING about it with THEIR friends, who then talk about it with THEIR friends, it will start to spread like a California brush fire.  If you can get enough people talking about it, you will get the attention of the journalists, which is exactly the point that Savannah was making in her article about curiosity journalism.  

News people LOVE to catch a piggy back ride on something that a lot of people are looking at, and they LOVE to feed it.

So… remember dead cats.   Create something that is going to “bring them back.”  Make sure it IS satisfying, because after all, it is the satisfaction that brings them back in that old saying.  The more intriguing you make it, the more satisfying it’s going to be when you finally “let the cat out of the bag.”  Even more importantly, the content you actually deliver along with the satisfaction is what is going to get them talking after they finish reading.  

Your goal with every article is to sell yourself in your niche and get targeted traffic to your sales site.  But your creative goal must be to get people curious, satisfy them profoundly and get them talking.  This is what is going to make your creations take on a life of their own and even go viral.  This is HOW you sell yourself and get your traffic.  If you focus on this, your “Show me the money” is going to happen, right before your eyes!

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