Decoding the success of #Instafamous pets (and how you can learn from it)

📸 @itsdougthepug

So, Doug the Pug has 3.2 million followers on Instagram and a contract with Claire’s accessories.

JuniperFoxx has 2.9 million followers, and along with her pal Fig, has a line of clothing sold from a website devoted to her and her woodland pals. Not only is there a pair of North American foxes, but also the odd sleeping squirrel and the best friend German Shepherd dog. 

Then, there is the phenomenon of Mr Pokee. 2.9 million Instagram fans mourned the loss of Mr Pokee when his death was announced in 2019, expressing the monumental love they felt for the spikey little critter. The Mr Pokee website lives on, tracking The World’s Cutest Adventurers, selling its calendars and other merchandise.  Mr Pokee survives in the brand, with his cute smiling face – even if his life as an IG star has come to an end.

The numbers might seem crazy to you – but the success of #instafamous pets is astonishing.  People cannot get enough of our furrier friends. What is the secret to success? What can we learn about what moves people; what motivates them to click?

Lesson 1: They are just darn cute

The world is a tough place.  There are lots of awful images in the world and lots of people being fake.  There is something beautiful about a fox with a huge smile on her face. Who isn’t going to fall for the big eyes of the most wonderful pug? You only need to look at the sheer star power of Tucker the Labrador and you will know that heart-melting cuddly looks are a massive part of this selling power.  

However, if cute were all it took then every Bonzo, Tilly and Jim would be a pet superstar.  We all think our pet is the cutest critter ever.

📸 @juniperfoxx

Lesson 2: Dressing up seems to be key

Take our doggy friend Doug and the once magnificent Mr Pokee as examples.  A hedgehog in sunglasses. The same hedgehog in a fluffy hat, with a snowy backdrop.  Then, there is the hedgehog in the flying cap. You get the idea. And Doug, well he has been dressed in almost every outfit you can imagine – the gangster outfit being a clear favorite for some of us! 

We love the personifying of animals.  The best dogs on the internet are all given “Hooman” voices.  We all crave those characters from our children’s books – and they make things seem innocent again.  Although this is a massive part of the success of these pets on social media, there still has to be another key ingredient.

📸 @mr.pokee

Lesson 3: Humor and technical skill

Although the animal takes center-stage, the human photographer and storyteller must take much of the plaudits.  The shots of the animals and the scenes they create are full of humour. A dog with an ice cream upturned on his head – who isn’t going to love that.  

Then, there is the staging of the photographs and the idea behind them.  Scan through the images, and they look professional. JuniperFoxx and her pals are delightfully shot – all photos you would love on your wall.  Mr Pokee is sometimes staged like those baby photographs that used to be popular. Smart, funny and distinctive.  

So, although you need a cute animal and a few props – the real X-Factor of these instafamous pets is the skill of the human account holder.  Still, it offers a fantastic opportunity to start your clothing line or calendar club – must go and catch my black Lab now – he would look fabulous in a doggy Tux.

Laura McLoughlin is a Digital PR based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She has experience as a website editor and journalist, and now writes for Omnia, a branding agency with offices in Dubai.


Rocky Kanaka

Rocky Kanaka is an entrepreneur, pet rescue advocate and dog dad to a rescue boxer named Flip, a blind Cane Corso called Kobe, and a terrier mix named Zoey. He's also a pet chef and owner of The Dog Bakery, which specializes in dog birthday cakes and fresh baked dog treats. His three dogs can't get enough of the dog cakes and treats!

Lorna Ladd

Lorna Paxton Ladd is a passionate dog lover and enthusiast of The Dog Bakery. She loves spoiling her 3 rescue dogs with dog cakes and jerky. A 15 year veteran in the pet industry, her aim is to educate pet parents on the best recipes, products, tips and tricks to optimize the human/canine bond. Her favorite product at The Dog Bakery are the customizable dog birthday cakes.