The Internet bowed its collective head in mourning as the news broke that Grumpy Cat has gone to that Great Litterbox in the Sky. Grumpy Cat, also known by her real name of "Tardar Sauce," was 7 years old.
It's hard to believe that a cat whose perpetual scowl could actually serve as a case study for marketing, but Grumpy Cat is displeased that you may not take her seriously.
The Internet Is a Fickle Beast
In a day and age when everyone wants to go viral, it's a bit impossible to determine what actually will get traction with the masses. Searching for tips on "how to go viral" will turn up a ton of articles with some guidelines, but most include the disclaimer that there's some luck involved.
It's unusual to have such a long-running streak of Internet fame, but the fact that people latched onto Grumpy Cat so quickly and for such a long time is a testament to her authenticity. She was instantly recognizable, but she didn't try to force anything – the posts were simple, relatable and real.
Being an Internet sensation is something that happens naturally and unpredictably, but it typically can't be forced. Take, for example, that Paper magazine cover where Kim Kardashian attempted to "break the Internet," which was met with more mockery than actual praise. The Internet has the ability to sniff out blatant promotional intent, and it's usually something the Internet doesn't take kindly to. (Naturally, there are notable exceptions, like those Old Spice ads or the Tide Pods with Gronk commercials that I love to watch.)
Be True to Yourself
One of the most relatable aspects of Grumpy Cat was that she always stayed on brand, even to the point of her name. Anytime you saw a Grumpy Cat post or Grumpy Cat's face, you knew what you were getting.
Despite the fact that Grumpy Cat's owner was able to capitalize on Tarder Sauce's fame and monetize it, all of the posts and campaigns were in the same vein. Grumpy Cat scored ad and sponsorship deals with companies like Skechers and the Minnesota Lottery, but all of those posts stayed within the clearly defined voice and brand that Grumpy Cat had established. They didn't try to get cute outside the bounds of what people had come to expect from Grumpy Cat.
Some might see that as monotonous, but there are ways to get creative within the bounds of an established brand voice. Diluting the brand voice can cause confusion and disengagement among an audience, while new content within that same brand voice helps meet audiences' expectations and reinforce the overall identity.
While Grumpy Cat may have passed away, her essence and "memeability" live on, giving her a form of immortality. While her family is undoubtedly heartbroken over their loss, hopefully they can take some solace in the fact that Grumpy Cat continues to provide insight – and amusement – to us all.