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Blow me away

Weather-related marketing campaigns whoosh kitties into new homes

From Animal Sheltering Magazine January/February 2014

The Washington Humane Society came up with its “Catnado” adoption promotion last July, when it was facing a crisis of kitten and cat intake. The promotion went viral on social media, and 61 felines quickly found homes. Tammy Fox Royer, executive director of the Florida Keys SPCA in Key West, saw the “Catnado” adoption promotion on Facebook and gave it a local meteorological twist.

Good timing and a flash of creativity combined last summer to create a hilarious adoption promotion at the Washington Humane Society (WHS) in the District of Columbia.

The shelter was experiencing an even greater influx of cats and kittens than normal. At their regular Monday morning meeting on July 15, Scott Giacoppo, vice president for external affairs and chief programs officer, discussed the crisis with staff members.

“I mentioned that we needed to do something to promote cat adoptions, and we needed to come up with something really good, really quick, so that we could try and empty out some of those cages,” he recalls.

This was at the same time that Sharknado, the SyFy Channel’s schlock fest about a shark-hurling storm besieging L.A., was spreading its pure, cheesy joy across social media.

“We were kind of talking about that—‘This is really bizarre, funny’—could we do anything with that?’” says ChristieLyn Diller, director of marketing and communications. “And it was really just a quick decision, like, ‘We can do ‘Catnado.’ I mean, it was fast.

The Catnado imagery was designed in-house and on-the-fly, and the Catnado adoption promotion was up and running the next day. “We knew—number one—we had the cat emergency, but also the Sharknado buzz was only going to last for so long,” Diller says.

Originally scheduled to offer fee-waived cats and kittens to screened adopters July 16-20, the promotion proved so popular that an extra day was added. During the weeklong promotion, cat adoptions increased 50 percent, and 61 cats and kittens found new homes, opening up more room in the shelter.

It was a huge hit on social media, gleaning about 60,000 retweets on Twitter, more than 200 likes and 400 shares on the shelter’s Facebook page, and popular website Buzzfeed listed it as the best use of the Sharknado meme. “This is probably the most successful promotion we’ve ever had,” Giacoppo says. “All over the country, other humane societies were texting and emailing us, ‘It was brilliant,’ ‘I wish I’d thought of it first.’”

Among those who saw Catnado on Facebook was Tammy Fox Royer, executive director of the Florida Keys SPCA in Key West. She took the idea and ran with it, adding a local meteorological twist—and the “Purricane” adoption promotion was born.Like most shelters, FKSPCA is always under (barometric?) pressure to rehome cats, but its highest intake coincides with hurricane season, June 1 to Nov. 30, so the Purricane promotion made sense.

“We don’t have a marketing person. We have a volunteer that I gave the concept to, and he came up with the flier,” she says. The shelter ended up rehoming a total of 20 cats. The two promotions together?
A purr-fect storm.

About the Author

Jim Baker is a former staff writer for the Humane Society of the United States.