Friskies: More Than Just Cat Food

You know, this is going to sound a little whacky, but we have a lot of respect for Friskies as a brand. Yes, we realize they sell kitty chow, but it’s the way they do it that impresses us.

Friskies started out in 1930 when the Carnation brand was struggling to sell canned milk during a time when need for such a thing was dwindling. In an effort to diversify their products, Friskies dog food was born. It was a great seller, and a few years later, they decided to add cat food to their product line. By 1960, Little Friskies was such a success that they decided make Friskies exclusively a cat food brand.

And here’s where things get interesting.

How do you sell pet food to people?  Who cares what flavor the food is or whether or not your cat thinks it’s tasty?  When Friskies started out, people were just looking for something to feed their cats. They didn’t care so much about whether or not it made their cat happy, so long as they weren’t hungry anymore.

So, people just needed something to fill that dish and get kitty-face out of their hair. Even though they didn’t enjoy quite the social status they do today, people still loved their cats and wanted good things for them. Friskies was able to capitalize on this, and eventually transform the social standing of cats in households from beloved pet, to humanized member of the family.


By personifying them.

It started out with some genius copy (Who says copywriters aren’t important? WHO? They make the world go ‘round, baby!) and it snowballed into where we are today.

Friskies made it important to care whether or not your cat was having a satisfying gastronomic experience when she ate. They did this by using words you’d use to describe a human experience. Referring to a cat as “she” instead of “it,” helped a great deal to humanize them. Friskies gave cats preferences by saying things like “cats love the true fish flavor.” Suddenly, instead of simply dumping food into a dish, you’re actually doing something that makes cats happy!

Friskies described their flavors as “irresistibly delicious,” and they referred to their food as a cat’s “favorite.” These things all combined to help transform cats into consumers with strong preferences and human feelings.

Fast forward to today, and the humanization of pets is what drives the pet industry. Cats in many households these days are treated as equal members of a family and it’s largely due to the advertising efforts of pet brands.

Last year, Friskies took this humanization of pets to a whole new level by creating the first ever game app for cats. In the game, objects appear on the screen of an iPad, iPhone or Android for cats to bat at or try to catch. Not wanting humans to feel left out of the fun, a more recent app allows owners to compete against their cats. This sounds silly, but think about how genius this is. It’s never a bad thing to encourage bonding with your pet, especially if it makes you want to buy more stuff for that pet!

Recently, Friskies decided to take a stand to “end cat boredom” by developing a campaign featuring great videos hosted by Chris Parnell. He urges pet owners to help fight this epidemic with Friskies cat treats. The ads direct consumers to the Friskies Facebook page to learn more about how they can help.

In February of this year, Friskies further proved that they are dedicated to making life fun and exciting for cats. They built Friskies Plus Playhouse; a colorful residence for shelter cats that featured a pond and a touch screen floor. The lucky cats who got to live there for two weeks were broadcast live on the Friskies Facebook page. The Friskies Facebook community was then given a chance to interact with the cats through Facebook by remotely controlling several toys and webcams. This was meant to be a way to inspire new ways to play with their own cats at home—or better yet, adopt a shelter kitty!

Not only is Friskies a brand that’s willing to adapt their advertising strategies to fit a changing market, but they actually work to change our culture in the process! We think Friskies is a wonderful example of how advertising does not only have the power to sell products, but it can actually influence and change our culture in sometimes surprising and unexpected ways.

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