Need to sense-check your loyalty strategy? Ask a cat.


Of all the domesticated animals, cats are my favourite. They know what they want and do what they like. On their terms. And even as most cats will snuggle on your lap while you’re watching the telly, that doesn’t mean they’re loyal. So I got thinking how cat psychology is the ultimate test of customer loyalty. Here’s how that plays out.

Cats don’t have owners. They hang with people they like.

The most important point to make about cats is that cats make the rules. If you set them up with a sunny spot for snoozing and plenty of regular meals, they may well hang out with you. But move house, downgrade your petfood or head off on holiday and they’ll happily hang with someone else instead. You don’t own a cat, your cat owns you, for now.

Cats don’t love you. But they don’t mind you loving them. Sometimes.

The second important observation around cats is that cats are quite happy to cuddle. Sometimes. Unlike their canine counterparts who lollop up and dribble love over anyone who smells like home, cats show up when they feel like it. If you happen to sit still in relative peace and quiet, a cat may curl up on your lap. But they only do it because it’s warm.

Cats aren’t loyal. Not one little bit.

The third and most devastating observation around cats is that they just don’t care about you. The entire myth around nine-lives is a retelling of the reality that cats will up and move to a better situation in a heartbeat. That’s why people like rescue cats. It’s a low bar to earn some half-decent cat-time - right up until your neighbours install DVS and your furry friend won’t even remember your name.

Your customers are a lot like cats.

Here’s the thing. No matter how much time we spend in post-it papered workshops about customer centricity, most customers could give two-shits. They’re a lot like cats. If we feed them, cuddle them and make their lives better, they’ll happily hang around. But customers don’t love us for who we are and they’re not even loyal to what we do. Your customers are good-time passengers on the roundabout of commerce. Just like cats.

Looking for customer loyalty? Attract and retain a cat.

If you’re starting to think this is all a little cynical and hopeless, think again. It’s actually liberating. If we move beyond the notion that our customers are looking for a meaningful relationship with a raspberry and plum yoghurt, we can see our way through to selling more of it. But first we need to accept reality.

The challenge of customer-centricity is the seemingly endless supply of corporate Koolaid. We love our stuff way more than our customers ever will. And even as we journey map, customer-test and debate the relative merits of rounded corners on calls to action, most customers don’t really care.

That doesn’t mean it’s not worth trying. It just makes it useful to focus on stuff that matters.

All we need to do is consistently do stuff or make stuff that’s better than our customers will find if they drop in with the neighbours. Because customers make the rules. Like cats.

That’s what I reckon, what do you think?

Michael Goldthorpe