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SXSW: I Can Has Cheezsculpture?

Friskies Tasty Treasures unveils
Friskies Tasty Treasures unveilsJack Plunkett

The I Can Has Cheezburger website franchise and Friskies co-hosted a party at Austin's South by Southwest Interactive in which "master cheese carver" Troy Landwehr transformed 640 pounds of cheddar into sculptures of famous Internet cats.

Why? Because Friskies ain't dumb.

You love cats on the Internet. Giant cheese sculptures are intrinsically awesome. If Friskies hangs out with stuff you love and/or know to be awesome, there's a good chance you'll think Friskies is awesome, too. (Cats commemorated includedGizmo: The Flushing Cat, Nora: The Piano-Playing Cat, Standing Cat and Monorail Cat.)

The Friskies partnership with the I Can Has CheezburgerInternet franchise is just one example of non-digital, often old-timey, brands doing their best to get in on that sweet Internet action, something marketers are obsessing on here at SXSW.

\"Master cheese carver\" Troy Landwehr poses with his work.
\"Master cheese carver\" Troy Landwehr poses with his work.Jack Plunkett

Take, for example, this SXSW presentation, "Haters Gonna Hate: Lessons For Advertisers From 4chan." Contrary to popular belief, 4chan spawned LOLcats. The Cheezburger franchise figured out how to make money off it. So why shouldn't Friskies do the same? It might could work.

Meanwhile, at a panal Saturday afternoon, just hours before the Cheezburger/Friskies joint, those Internet obsessives from Know Your Meme compared and contrasted Smart Water's attempt to cash in on viral gold by cramming spokesactress Jennifer Aniston into a commercial with every Internet meme that fits. They also observed how Old Spice succeeded where Smart Water failed (in the eyes of Web purists, anyway) by using viral aesthetic to create something original.

Leveraging social media into a win for a brand isn't easy, something I had somewhat of a conversation about at the I Can Has Cheezburger/Friskies party with the dudes from Ignite Social Media. It seems they're doing a doing booming business helping brands figure out how to do just that.  

I ended up hanging out with them not because that's what they do, or that we both sort of work for Bing (they handle Bing's social media efforts, msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal), but because I thought one of them was my friend Wesley, this one guy I know on Twitter. He wasn't. But, turns out, we were all, to varying degrees, totally into the Detroit Robocop statue. So: WIN!

It also turns out that lots of companies — or "brands," rather — jump into the social media business with the so-last-millennium thinking that even social media is a one way street — with the brand" dumping the message on the consumer.  But that's just not how consumers roll, not anymore. Consumers want to be heard, they want to feel like they're involved and that the brand is paying attention and giving back.

Friskies gave back to the SXSW nerds with swag in the form of plushy toy versions of the Blue Russian cat of I Can Has Cheezburger fame and a sammich truck handing out free grilled cheeses the following day. Currently, the Friskies Facebook fan page has 93 "Likes."

It's a start.

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