What Neko Atsume Taught Me About Marketing

neko atsume

An adorable app has been taking Ascedia by storm: Neko Atsume, or Kitty Collector. This “pointless but brilliant” game involves attracting cats to your yard. The visiting cats then leave you a seemingly random number of silver or gold fish, which can be used to purchase food and toys to attract even more cats. 

There’s not much to the game itself - you’re simply monitoring your yard for new cats and taking pictures of them - but it’s incredibly compelling. Since I downloaded the game just over a week ago, I’ve spent probably too much brain space thinking about my cats, checking in on them and analyzing my next toy purchase. I’m not even a cat person. Why do I find this game so addictive? And is there any value to it? Then it occurred to me - Neko Atsume reinforces some of the major principles of a successful digital marketing strategy. 


There are currently 49 cats to “collect” in Neko Atsume, and 17 of these are rare cats which require the placement of specific items to draw them in. While these items aren’t exclusively used by the rare cats - other cats will interact with them - the big payoff is opening the app to see one of the rare characters in the game. My first goal in the game was to attract Billy the Kitten, an adorable Western-outfitted cat who would only come visit when a Cowboy Hat was available.

Marketers can reap the same benefits by taking the time to dig into user personas. Rather than treating this like a cursory part of strategy development, really take the time to get into the head of your target audience and determine what makes them tick. What motivates them? What are their primary struggles? What are they looking for?

The Lesson: If you understand what your audience wants, you can create the exact experience they’re looking for.



Unless you’re willing to spend real money on fake fish, Neko Atsume offers valuable lessons in the importance of building and balancing a budget. When visiting cats leave your yard, they reward you with silver and gold fish which can be used to buy new items. Several items - cat trees, furniture and an extremely expensive yard expansion - are a solid first investment because by expanding your space, you can attract more cats at once, which ultimately leads to more fish.

Many marketing teams are faced with tight budgets, and it’s hard to know where to spend your dollars to get the biggest return on investment. The best approach is often creating a foundational tactic - for example, blog posts - that can be repurposed through multiple channels, like social media, email campaigns and printed collateral.

The Lesson: Allocate your dollars to tactics that will have lasting impact.




How long did it take for Billy the Kitten to visit my yard? Too long for this impatient Kitty Collector. When I purchased the Cowboy Hat, I fully expected Billy to be hanging out in my yard the next time I opened the app. Every time I checked in only to see another “regular” cat wearing Billy’s hat or, worse, stuffed into it, I became less hopeful that the elusive kitten would ever arrive. In the end, the delay only made it that more meaningful when Billy finally showed up three days later.

Marketers feel increased pressure to drive leads and increase revenue for their organizations, and the concept of “going viral” has only increased their impatience. The expectation is that every campaign will take off like a shot, whereas in reality only a handful do. Marketing is a slow burn - it takes time for certain tactics to take hold and start driving results. For example, when a new website launches, analytics take a hit and it takes time for numbers to get back to where they were, much less reach new heights. But many organizations are too impatient to let their results build and give up too early in the process.

The Lesson: Trust your strategy and give it time to make an impact.

Are you addicted to Neko Atsume? Has it taught you any valuable life lessons beyond "cartoon cats are cute"?

Comment by Atayal Tu posted on 3/11/2016 1:16:34 AM Hi! This post largely inspired me to write about my own experiences with Neko Atsume and how the game has branded itself. I was wondering if you could read my post and give me feedback? Thanks!

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