My Cat's Name is Isis

Ian Lurie

Yes, there’s a marketing lesson here. But when I tried to write “How Digital Marketing is Like Naming My Cat Isis” I almost punched myself in the throat.

I have two cats, a dog, and a guinea pig.

One of my cats, an insane, overweight Siamese, is named Isis.

Yes. Isis.

She was so named long before the terrorist organization popped up. But now, every damned time I mention her, I get one of four reactions:

“Man, that’s an unfortunate name.”
“Why not just name her Taliban?” (followed by a chuckle)
“Did you name her after the terrorists?”
“Did you name the other one Bin Laden?”

Ignore political correctness for a second. Isis is the sweetest, nicest (craziest) cat ever. She purrs at 10 decibels. She is a professional cuddler, taking Gold in the Keep You Sitting On the Couch competition five years in a row. Look at this face!!!

Ponderous, yes. Terrorist? No.

How can you not love this cat?!!

But it doesn’t matter. The first impression is the name. People immediately associate her with crazed gun-toting bigoted asshats. And they never stop.

I bet she’s on some feline no-fly list.

There’s a marketing lesson here

The point: A bad impression is like that time you let lettuce turn to brown liquid in your fridge. You can clean it up, but the stench lasts a long time.

Better to get things right from the get-go.

I talk a lot about fast loading web pages, writing well, and distance from perfect. I harp on it all because the first .5 seconds someone spends with you (or your website) makes an impression. If it’s the wrong impression, you’re screwed. It’ll take a long time to fix it.

And the wrong impression can be subtle. Everyone who jokes about my cat’s name thinks they’re funny. But her name sticks in their psyche. They avoid eye contact with her (that may be because she’s cross-eyed). I can hear their voices hitch a little when they mention her: “Yes, Ian has a cat named… Isis.”

Imagine the impact when a website takes 5+ seconds to load on a mobile device. Or a drop-down menu evades my mouse cursor, turning my attempt to look at a product into a video game. Or product copy is awful. Or a blog post is a lousy pop culture reference.

Those things have an impact. You can fix them, sure. But the first impression remains. You need to get it right the first time.

Even my cat can tell you that.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. See also: ichigo ichie 😀 Excellent reminder, thanks!
    Also, so awesome that you got a happy, friendly Siamese. Most I’ve met are terrible grouches. Probably because they’re so skinny.

    1. My two cats are siblings – one black, one obviously siamese. They’re both hedonists. Hence their weight. And their vet yells at me every time I bring them in. I feed them separately, ration their food, etc. and they just go and eat the dog’s food whenever they can.
      I get them away from his food, and they start eating every spider in the house.
      The only upside is that when Isis gets SO fat she can’t jump up any more, I put the cat food up on a high stool and Romulus can eat, but she can’t. Then she trims down a bit.

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