The Crazy Success of, I Want To Draw a Cat For You
When I first saw this video I was confused. Sure, the jingle was catchy and the editing was swell, but, was this guy for real? Did people actually buy his terrible drawings? He doesn’t do this for a living…does he? I decided to put on my investigative journalism hat and see if I couldn’t get some answers about this crazy cat guy. I went straight to the source.
Crazy Ways to Make Money
The crazy cat guy’s name is Steve Gadlin and he’s a Chicago-based comedian with a full-time gig as the manager of the web department for Weigel Broadcasting. His “I Want To Draw A Cat For You” campaign (if you can call it that) has been profiled on NBC Chigago, The Atlantic, WBEX 91.5, Yahoo!, and The Huffington Post. The whole thing wouldn’t have even taken off had it not been for Groupon.
“I’m always testing the limits of stupidity,” Gadlin says. “I wanted a very simple business that I could use to perform experiments in viral marketing an advertising. In May 2010, the jingle popped into my head and I turned the site around pretty quickly after that.”
He emailed Groupon.com, a deal-of-the-day website that is localized in major markets across the country. Groupon started in Chicago, and Gadlin completely expected to get a funny rejection letter for his cat drawings. But that’s not what happened.
Groupon thought his idea was brilliant, and sold his $9.95 cat stick figure drawing for $3 a piece on Cyber Monday. He sold 1,000 before shutting the deal down.
Success of the Crazy Cat Guy
“I’ve sold my cat drawings in most states, and in several countries,” Gadlin says. “They’re buying them as tributes to their pets. They’re buying them as gag gifts. Or they’re buying them to one-up each other in random, absurd drawing requests.”
All in all, Gadlin says he has pocketed around $5,000 from this project. “Cats are easy to draw,” he says. “A circle for a head, a couple of triangles for ears, etc.”
To fill his 1,000 cat drawing quota from his Groupon sale, Gadlin has been drawing cats in bunches. He’ll do a set in the morning and then again at night. Some are easy and take under 30 seconds to complete while some come with specific requests—like a skinny cat that is impressed with his top hat.
Create Demand with Creative Marketing
“I’ve learned a little creative marketing can create a demand where there was none,” Gadlin says. “If you put the right product in the right context, you can sell anything. Creativity and a little know-how can pay off.”
The success of the project has also given Gadlin a crash course in business, especially e-commerce. “I’m always involving myself in strange and creative projects,” he says. “The only difference with this one is that from time to time, I sit at the dinner table and draw stick figure cats for hours. I’m having a blast connecting with all of my customers.”
Gadlin, who truly is involved in all sorts of wacky comedic stuff in and around Chicago, won’t be making a living off of his cat drawings anytime soon—but he still wants to draw one for you. Check out his other projects at www.steev.org.
Over to You
There are lessons to be learned through fun experimentation in business. Have you tried anything wacky to earn some additional income as a freelancer? What wacky demand could you create with the skills you have? How might you use viral marketing creatively? We’d love to hear your crazy ideas below.