Last week, a picture of one of our cats that I posted to Flickr was selected by Purina PetCharts as one of their top 10 of the day.
We couldn’t be prouder of China, pictured left, who is a year old this month. The title of the image when Purina spotted it was “Cat on lounge.” I changed it later to “Odalisque.” I don’t know if the title would have made a difference in their selection.
It’s an interesting marketing strategy: Crawl picture- and video-sharing sites for images that suit the brand and incorporate the images in a daily popularity contest. I trust the images are either for open use (mine are), or the owners are contacted for permission. Purina left a comment on Flickr, which pointed me, and anyone else finding it, to the image – and to their site, of course.
It’s flattering if handled right, and Purina seems to be handling it right. Your pet (and you must be proud of it to have images posted to share) is discovered, like Norma Jean, and brought into the club, along with similar images of dogs and cats.
The trick is in the selection of images. They can’t be too serious, but they can be as cute as anything from Hallmark. Purina uses the original poster’s title, and not altering the images, just selecting them. The idea is to construct the same happy-go-lucky, insider ethos as the aggregated posters, to become one of the group.
And the real trick is to tone down the marketing on the Pet Charts site and cast the sales in the same spirit of sharing as the image sites it crawls. So they cast the site as “the definitive guide to the best pet stuff online,” and you can almost hear the verbal pause, the hedge in that informal “stuff.” It’s not “information.” It’s not advertising or products; wouldn’t want to say that. It’s “stories, videos and photos.” That’s the “stuff.” The same informal term social aggregators like to use then they are being miscellaneous. Stuff. (There are links to products, ringtones, widgets, and coupons from the Pet Charts site, but they are tucked away in the footer, another smart move in underselling.)
This makes Purina (if not Nestle, who owns the site) one of us, a pet owner, not a pet food producer.
And it really does, too. That’s why this is an interesting marketing strategy. Purina has to live up to the ethos it’s defining on Pet Charts. By taking on the public role of an altruistic social pet aggregator, by providing a free Facebook for kitty and puppy, by using their web resources and expertise, Purina is committing themselves to continue to perform good deeds in public.