A crowd stops dead in their tracks, fixated on the window display of a modest Plateau-Mont-Royal hair salon. The scene has been a common one at Salon MOOV ever since they started employing a powerful yet unconventional marketing strategy. Though Salon MOOV offers quality salon services, it’s not quite the hairstyling that mesmerizes the onlookers, but a litter of newborn Bengal kittens.
“I specialize in cat-vertising,” explains co-owner Jean-Marc Richer.
Richer purchased the salon together with partner Yves Pednault in 2010 during a tough economic period for new businesses. Despite offering a special no-tax discount to students for hair services, the salon struggled to distinguish themselves in the competitive Plateau-Mont-Royal market. ‘Cat-vertising,’ a term coined by Richer, was the solution to that problem.
‘Cat-vertising’ refers to the salon’s choice advertising method of strategically placing kittens at the forefront of the salon, directly in front of the window display. As pedestrians stop to ogle the kittens, Richer shamelessly plugs his salon services.
It all started by chance when Richer was assigned babysitting duty for a girlfriend’s newborn kittens. Fearing that they would become lonely at home, he decided to bring them to work.
“I turned around and there was a crowd of people taking pictures,” he says. “In my head I’m like, ‘Bam! I just found an oilwell!’”
Richer worked quickly to capitalize on the kittens’ popularity, starting by increasing the salon’s social media presence.
“When people would meet us outside, after I’d inform them about the cats, I would give them the card and say ‘go look at our Facebook page. We’ve got beautiful pictures of our cats and the cuts,’” explains Richer. “They look and see the beautiful girls with long hair and they call back for an appointment [….] They see baby cats, and they’re already won over. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”
Richer stressed that the comfort of the cats is a top priority. Each of the Bengal kittens is borrowed from, and later sold by, a licensed breeder. Before and after work hours, the kittens are free to roam around the salon, including an enclosed outdoor patio.
With an estimated 80 per cent increase in customers since the introduction of their adorable advertising team, Richer claims his salon would have faced closure were it not for his furry co-workers.
“I never put in one penny, no paid ads, nothing,” he says. “I banked a lot on social media. In the last seven days, we had 7,000 people look at our Facebook page. We have 1,917 ‘likes.’ So far not a dollar put in here—just a two-man operation.”
Beyond zootherapy (the use of animals for physical and emotional healing), Richer and Pednault hope to offer more than just the traditional salon experience, by hosting events such as after-hours barbecues for both clients and passersby. In addition, the salon also offers free haircuts each Tuesday to local women’s shelters as a means of giving back to the community.
However, they have faced some criticism from the community.
“I find it irresponsible for Salon MOOV to be advocating Bengal cats when we have so many homeless cats in this city and province,” wrote Shelley Schecter, President of Educhat, an organization concerned with animal welfare, in a letter to the Montreal Gazette.
Though an unorthodox means of attracting clients, ‘cat-vertising’ is a brazen, yet effective means through which small businesses like Salon MOOV can leave their mark in a highly competitive market. As Richer puts it, “In business today, it’s not enough to only have a good product or service. You need to have an extra edge that other people don’t have.” Their edge just happens to be soft and cuddly.
Salon MOOV is located at 163 Ave. Duluth. Telephone (514) 223-2229.
Stop breeding cats, you heartless disgusting abomination. I hope your salon gets bed bugs.