Propaganda Poster-Inspired Catalyst is Disrupting the Natural Cat Litter Space
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 01/18/2021 | 5 Minute Read
Discovering the perfect cat litter is like hitting the jackpot as a pet owner. Finding one that doesn’t track throughout the house, that doesn’t emit a bunch of dust into the air, and that your sweet little floofball will, you know, actually use is a real challenge.
For pet parents who are also eco-conscious, it’s nearly impossible.
Lignetics, Inc. saw an opportunity to fill that space with a litter that would tick all the boxes—clumping, odor control, unmessy, beloved by kitties everywhere, and environmentally-friendly. The company upcycles wood waste, so they used that to create Catalyst, a cat litter both high-performing and sustainable.
“The company came to us with a new approach to kitty litter that was healthier and safer,” said Evan Faber, CEO and chief strategist of global branding agency Moxie Sozo. “They wanted to start a movement—how to get people to make tinier, responsible choices in their life that would have big payoffs. So much kitty litter ends up in the landfill, and this is a little choice that they can make.”
Aside from the product itself, Moxie Sozo had to build Catalyst from the ground up. In discerning the strategy, they learned that Lignetics, Inc.’s big goal was to act as a wise, learned voice for this kitty litter movement they wanted people to join. With a sage leader in mind that would guide consumers to a better option, Moxie Sozo could then forge ahead with tasks like naming and designing the packaging.
And it's certainly not the first time someone tasked them with landing on that all-too-important brand name. Over the years, they've even formalized a process for this critical undertaking.
"We gather all of the information up front, whether we're doing strategy for the project or not," explained Brie Schaezler, senior account director at Moxie Sozo. "You need to ground it in a strategic element, ensuring that all of your concepts go back to that initial North Star. We find out likes or dislikes from the client, determine that whitespace within the category, as well as look at clever ways to tie in a background.”
From there, Moxie Sozo puts their potential names into buckets—some are more functional, some that may be weird but, oddly enough, still work. Maybe there's more of an emotional connection that a consumer makes. Regardless, after many iterations, they then bring a comprehensive presentation back to the client, and they go through as many rounds as needed to land on the right name.
The brand name Catalyst works on multiple levels. The word itself implies change and can lend itself to motivating copy for the website or social media, embodying the knowledgeable leader that the organization wants to position itself as.
And, yes, most importantly, the word “cat” is even in it.
That wise leader manifests itself on the packaging as a virtuous propaganda pussycat, flag in its paw as it shepherds consumers to a new kitty litter experience. “The client had brought up the idea of a protest as inspiration,” said Nate Dyer, one of the creative directors and principals at Moxie Sozo. “From there, we started thinking about old propaganda posters from Russia and China, like some of the old Chairman Mao banners. Taking inspiration from those, we decided we wanted to have a big hero cat. Then it was just a matter of tying in all the other things we wanted to communicate in the messaging.”
They had their work cut out for them. The category of natural cat litter has a reputation for falling short, Evan explained, so the packaging had to have cues that indicated its high-performance abilities and natural bona fides. They needed to balance a LOT of keywords that pet owners are looking for in their litter—dust-free, odor control, clumping—with the information they didn’t know they needed, like the unique material utilized. Plus, the product is sustainably-made.
Take all of those obstacles, and they can become an opportunity for letting your design flourish.
“That’s one of the most fun challenges with any packaging is when you get all your content, and you have to make sure everything reads in a logical order and that the primary components are what people get first,” Nate added. “It’s taking those bits of content and tweaking things here and there, adding embellishments, and balancing the ornate details. You can see the corner elements on Catalyst where they come down to these swirly eyes at the bottom of the C and the T, so it starts to form a cat face as well. Sometimes they start as happy accidents that you notice, and you think, ‘Oh, I can push this further in that direction.’”
They also had to understand the difference between the stories the brand wanted to tell versus the ones the consumer needs to hear. For a mission-driven brand like Catalyst, that means figuring out a healthy mix of educating shoppers and entertaining them. Now more than ever, consumers want companies that stand for something (in fact, nearly two-thirds of consumers do), whether that’s the environment or LGBTQIA rights or ending white supremacy.
“A lot of products that do good out there try to inform, and a lot of brands out there that don’t have a good product or mission don’t have that kind of information,” Evan said. “They’re just there to entertain.
"We're seduced by entertainment," he added. "So how can we get the mission-driven brands to entertain people in a better way, rather than try and educate and lecture and preach? Can we make it fun? Can we put a propaganda cat on a bag of kitty litter waving a flag? That tells a story that makes somebody smile, and that is the secret sauce to unlocking and disrupting some of the conventional brands.”