Why Screaming Goats and Random Cats Matter


Screaming goats, random cats. They are some of the most popular pieces of content online and to many seem like a waste of time and space. In a recent post on Fast Company  Google’s Abigail Posner explains why they aren’t just mindless distractions, instead they reflect a real human need to elevate the everyday, make connections, and exchange energy.

“This is what the Internet is all about, people. A killer song, a stupid meme, a nostalgic throwback to 2001, and, most important, bites of dumb hilarity that come in 30-second bursts.”

Huffington Post on the Harlem Shake, February 2013

Posner says that “Google searches for Cat GIFs hit an all-time high last month. And we took 380 billion photos last year–that’s 10% of all the photos taken . . . ever. But let’s be honest–these memes are fun, but they don’t matter, right? They’re pretty much a waste of time.”

She has done research to see what brands can learn from these visual plays (in fact her research has kicked off Googles The Engagement Project).  Posner says that “To get to the bottom of these memes, we assembled a team of original thinkers–anthropologists, digital vanguards, and content creators–to dig a little deeper into this “visual web.” We also spoke to gen-Cers–the people who grew up on the web or behave as though they did–and who thrive on creation, curation, connection, and community.”

Cute-little-kitty-wearing-blue-toque-dancing-to-and-fro-to-musicThe research showed that far from distracting from more serious things, “viral pictures, videos, and memes reconnect us to an essential part of ourselves. And by understanding what’s at the root of our obsession with the visual web, brands can create the kind of content that resonates in today’s culture.”

Abigail Posner outlines some reasnos why it resonates, which I have summarised here:


It may seem that all we’re doing is just capturing every mundane moment. But look closely. These everyday moments are shot, displayed, and juxtaposed in a way that offers us a new perspective. And then all of a sudden these everyday moments, places, and things look . . . fascinating.

This fascination with the familiar is deeply rooted. …we strive to elevate the everyday by feeding our appetite for imagination and discovery. The web allows us to do this on a scale we’ve simply never seen before.


Let’s say you’re a fan of Les Mis. But you also think the whole screaming goats thing is hilarious. Even though they seem very different, to you they’re connected–if only by the passion you share for them. So you take a leap of imagination and make that connection.

Neuroscientists explain that synapses occur inside the brain when we’ve made a connection between various different things. The more random the components connected, the more synapses occur. Synapses are the basis of creativity. In other words, synapses firing equals creative joy.

The visual web frees us to return to a childlike state, where we can adventure through a whole array of different, seemingly unrelated images and clips–be they old, new, from a world away or own backyard–sparking our all-important synapses and helping us come up with new combinations and ideas so easily.

Uninhibited by linearity and stimulated by all the access to imagery, synaptic play takes hold and we’re free to indulge in a purer kind of creativity. Or, as we call it, the Nyan Cat Dubstep Remix. And even if we’re just watching these crazy creations, we are still celebrating and appreciating all this synaptic play, and it inspires us!


The only thing better than going on this journey of discovery is sharing it with others. This “gift” of sharing contributes to an energy exchange that amplifies our own pleasure–and is something we’re hardwired to do.

In the language of the visual web, when we share a video or an image, we’re not just sharing the object, we’re also sharing in the emotional response it creates.

There are billions of these energy exchanges happening every day. Whether we’re posting, commenting, liking, repinning, or +1ing, our new visual culture is one in which we’re constantly offering each other little gifts, little moments of pleasure that remind us we’re truly and deeply bonded to one another.

It all matters

According to Posner “In the end, it all matters: every meme, GIF, and seemingly silly video. Nowhere else can we rediscover the fascination of our everyday world, spark synapses that unlock our creative potential, and amplify the joy we feel in a global exchange of energy. And through it all, we connect more deeply with each other–and ourselves.”

What does it mean for you?

Brands and their creative agencies need to stop thinking like advertisers and start to tap into this visual play and think like creators.  Its about content not commercials. Posner gives a few starting points to get you going:

  1. Help people rediscover the beauty of a forgotten familiar.

  2. Find something familiar–in your product, brand, or from people’s lives–and help us see it in a fascinating new light. It could be as simple as taking a kitchen appliance and turning it into a science experiment.

  3. Find ways to spark synaptic play and participation.

  4. Search for your brand online. Chances are your fans are already mixing and mashing your brand with something seemingly unrelated. Build on it, fuel it, steer it, and help us make more with it.

  5. Give happiness we can share in.

  6. Ditch the pitch. Instead, start an energy exchange. Create content that reminds us of our own capacity for excitement, happiness, and vivacity so we want to share in it with others.

And to sign off this post – the ultimate goat compilation 


Content Marketing, tell me more

A short presentation about Content Marketing – enjoy


If you would like to know more, let me know

Facebook introduces hashtags

FB#Facebook announced on Wednesday that it was going to introduce clickable hashtags for users. You will often see hashtags in peoples posts on Facebook, where they are posting the same thing to Facebook and Twitter, outside of that its become part of the vernacular, yes people actually use the word “hashtag” in their speech!

So Facebook are doing what Facebook do well and looking at what their users are doing and rolling out a feature, with users being able to click on the hashtagged words from the search bar and view a feed on that topic. Users will also be able to click on hashtags that originate on other services, such as Instagram and compose posts directly from the hashtag feed and search results.

Debra Aho Williamson, an analyst with eMarketer, told Mashable that “This is a layer on top of what Facebook is already offering. If marketers are already using hashtags as part of their marketing on other sites, they will be able to use those same hashtags within Facebook and drive engagement within the Facebook environment.”

It seems that Facebook is trying to steal back some of the second screen action that has been pretty much twitter territory. In a post on their Blog Greg Lindley, Facebook product manager said “. “During primetime television alone, there are between 88 and 100 million Americans engaged on Facebook — roughly a Super Bowl-sized audience every single night,”

The company said that hashtags were the first of several new features that will be introduced to highlight discussions about events on Facebook. The company is rolling out hashtags to roughly 20 per cent of its users, with a full global launch expected in the coming weeks.


What does it all mean for you?

Well the introduction of the hashtag on Facebook will change how people use the platform and engage with eachother, content and to a degree brands.

  • Brand Mentions – it seems likely that brand mentions will be easier to monitor now, similar to Twitter.  Which means you will have more access to data about your brand  which adds another layer of metrics and numbers to gauge success. You will also be able to engage in real time conversations, so think about needing to be even more always on.
  • Brand Pages – it seems unlikely that Facebook’s move to introduce #’s will threaten brand pages (where brands have spent lots of money)  and it seems more likely that it will enhance brand pages. This is a wait and see one I think.
  • User Generated content – If someone posts a picture of themselves wearing/using a new product and uses the brand hashtag, depending on your legal guidelines that could be a photo your page could use. Facebook and users love images so this will be a way to help generate more image content for brands.
  • Privacy – Facebook will maintain their privacy settings regarding hashtags, and won’t allow users to show up in click-throughs of the hashtag if their settings are set to be shared only with friends
  • Not for mobile – sadly, mobile will be a hashtag free zone as the app doesn’t support the phrase. Hashtags can be used, but there will be no click through to the hashtag feed.
  • Facebook hashtag ads – Facebook say they aren’t offering this yet, but they will.
  • Don’t Hashtag vomit – when brands were getting used to Facebook I coined the phrase Facebook Vomit  to describe how they just spewed on their walls. We have to hope brands don’t start hashtag vomiting now, so if you are a brand owner reading this – please don’t!

Think about the #hashtag

I really like the new Heineken Dropped campaign. But they didnt really think about the hashtag properly! With 4 days left for entries I did a search on twitter (using the hashtag #dropped) and instead of seeing loads of entries, I saw lots of people talking about getting dumped/dropped.

Lesson: check what the hashtag means to everyone else before you use it


The Future of Social Media


I was asked to contribute a piece to the recent edition of the Irish Marketing Journal about the Future of Social Media, here is what I had to say:

What’s the future of Social Media? Really who cares? Our heads will just spin if we keep worrying about the future of social media – because when we ask that question we are really asking – what’s the next Facebook or Twitter? Who Cares!

Do you really think people sit at home, on the bus, or the train, in work or watching TV – wherever – and worry about the future of social media – about the next big thing. No they don’t. They don’t care.

We live in our marketing bubble – we are hyper conscious of channels – we are hyper digitally aware – we get so bogged down in it all that we forget what it’s all about. It’s about people, it’s about experiences, it’s about making lives a little more interesting.

IMJSocialStop thinking about the future of social media and start to think about how and what people are consuming, what they are interested in and how you can enhance that. If you get that right, then you can tweak it for the right social channel.

In his book, Contagious, Jonah Berger says that “Contagious products and ideas are like forest fires. They can’t happen without hundreds, if not thousands, of regular Joes and Janes passing the product or message along. So why did thousands of people transmit these products and ideas?”

So the future (really the now) of social is about shareabiltiy and sharing. It’s about great content, it’s visual, it’s not perfect, it’s relevant, it’s local, it’s mobile, it’s quality but doesn’t have to be perfect (allow it be gritty).

And as Jonah Berger  suggests, it’s not just online, we need to think how we can get offline consumers talking and sharing, because there are just as many, if not more offline conversations.

Social media will continue to be relevant, increasingly so. However it needs to be part of the broader picture and not singled out.  Regardless of where it is headed we need to continue the quest for seamless creative experiences that live beyond analog and beyond digital and do things that excite people so they are willing to share them .

Engagement, I’m just not buying it.

Fantastic Deck by Nicolas Moerman, Engagement, I’m just not buying it. Bring business back into social, on why we have to stop focusing on engagement and instead look to bring (back) craftmanship onto Facebook. Social media is interesting to reach the 90% lurkers with great brand messaging. Use the other 10% to change your business.

My Free Breakfast


I got a great free breakfast this morning on Grafton Street thanks to Denny. All I had to do (after I realised they were actually there doing the free breakfast) was fill out a questionnaire while eating my breakfast. I was asked by the friendly staff to find the Facebook page on my phone (some free wi-fi would have been a great addition). I had to search for Dennyest1890 (yeh that was the name of the Facebook page). I couldnt find it, but when I searched for Denny the app that I needed popped up. The Facebook app was mobile friendly – so that was a relief – and really easy to use, and for those without facebook or smartphones they had paper and pen surveys to be filled out. I assume the results of the survey will form a press release in the coming weeks.


The whole experience was enjoyable and a nice way to start the 4 day week! As I sat there eating the fantastic Denny sausage, rasher and pudding (may as well give them some credit for decent grub!) – I just wondered about the scale of the whole thing. While I was there about 8 people were eating breakfast, four were tourists, nothing wrong with that, but where is the benefit to the brand & sales with that? It looks like the pop up  can hold about 30, so I worked out they are – at best – going to get 1,900 people through their doors this week. Is that really going to create a lift in sales for them – is that scale?

The costs of renting & kitting out the pop up shop, development of the app, creative and placement of advertising, prizes, PR etc… must be up around €70K (just a guesstimate) if not more. So if we take 70K the cost of each breakfast to Denny is €36. Im pretty sure you can buy a breakfast pack for about a fiver – so I would need to buy at least 7 breakfast packs before Denny see a return on their investment. With nothing encouraging me to purchase post experience, what are the chances I (or anyone else) will do that?

Social Capital

So you probably are thinking – right this isnt all about sales, there is brand building here and social capital will give the brand a lift? Thats a nice thought, but there was nothing encouraging me to share my experience. After I had filled out the Facebook survey there was nothing asking me to post to my wall that I had just had my free breakfast and was in with a chance to win a kitchen. There was no hashtag asking me to tweet a picture of me and my breakfast. I am happy with that kind of trade off and think most people are, so why wasnt it part of the flow of the experience. As it happened I did tweet about my breakfast and there has been no re-tweet (maybe they arent on twitter) and looking at Facebook there are no posts on their wall about the free breakfasts.

Im not saying this is a bad idea, I had a great time this morning, lovely breakfast, nice set up, nice people, easy to use app etc.. But I just wonder what the return for them will be in terms of sales lift or brand lift? Would be interested to hear.