On Tuesday, Grumpy Cat passed away. She was seven years old. And with her death, one of the internet's hottest sensations in the last several years has come to an end.

But even in death, Grumpy Cat has some interesting lessons to teach anyone--human or animal--on what it takes to make a brand go viral. And more importantly, how to keep that virality going for years.

The Grumpy Cat story starts in 2012 with her human, Tabatha Bundesen. At the time, Bundesen's brother thought that Grumpy Cat had a uniquely interesting face. So, he snapped a picture of the cat and posted it to Reddit. Within two days, it garnered more than one million views and kept flying.

The brother wasn't wrong. Because of a medical condition, Grumpy Cat indeed had a unique face. Even when she was resting and seemingly happy, her facial features made her look grumpy. Needless to say, the internet was abuzz.

Soon after the original post, Grumpy Cat images became memes. She was featured on national news programs. She also started social media pages that only grew over time. Best of all, she helped Bundesen quit her job and start a new career as the owner of Grumpy Cat Limited.

Over the past seven years, Bundesen has done an outstanding job of building the Grumpy Cat brand. The Instagram account she started has swelled to 2.4 million followers. Grumpy Cat earned endorsements and became, for many, a household brand.

Grumpy Cat's popularity became so strong that seven years later, just days after her death, we're still talking about her. So, what can a business owner learn from that? Believe it or not, quite a bit.

Learning From Grumpy Cat

What made Grumpy Cat special in the first place was her uniqueness. In a world where companies are often doing the same thing or providing the same service, trying to break out from the pack and do something different is critical. There's simply too much noise on social media, Reddit, and elsewhere to make a splash without it.

Evaluate your company, look at your service lines, and find what makes you special and unique. If it checks that box, move on to step two: Develop a rollout plan that leverages social media to quickly scale.

That's what the people behind Grumpy Cat did. To their credit, they didn't try to get attention through television or other more traditional means. Instead, they found Reddit--a natural home for cat memes--to be a vehicle for rapid growth.

You might be able leverage Reddit to be more successful, too. Or, maybe, a different platform more closely fits your brand. Figure out which one is right for you.

Lastly, consider the long-term strategy. Grumpy Cat's humans didn't let the story end on Reddit. Instead, they developed a brand, thought about how that brand could be leveraged, and used those scalable services--Instagram, Twitter, and others--to grow.

You have something people like, you have something they've connected with, but you're only as popular as your last day. What's next? Having that plan and deciding what to do next is critical.

Grumpy Cat might not be the most obvious inspiration for a company. And yet, with a little bit of planning and solid strategy, you can use her lessons to build a bigger, more popular brand.

Published on: May 20, 2019
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