An exploration into the world of furries
BENEATH THE FUR
At Olson Zaltman, we’re committed to looking deeper.
Exploring the fantastical world of furries in the summer of 2017 led to insights, both expected and unexpected, which revealed not only what it is like to be a member of the furry fandom, but on a deeper level, what it means to be human.
The implications of this study were manifold. Beyond offering a look at a community often shrouded in mystery, the study revealed a model that businesses and brands can use for transforming their potential customers into occasional customers, and occasional customers into loyalists.
We invite you to take a look into the world of furries and see what it means for understanding your customers – both those with fur and those without.
They’re covered in fur.
They come in all different sizes. Shapes. Colors. Species.
Unlike anything you’ve seen or heard of before, some might even say they’re a little weird.
But beneath their fur suits, they’re only human – just like the rest of us.
Anthropomorphism – the humanization of non-human things, such as animals or objects – is widely represented in history, religion, mythology, literature, and media. Its presence is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives; the way we play dress-up, or attribute human emotions to our beloved family pets - those are all expressions of anthropomorphism.
The furry fandom is simply one of many modern-day adaptations of anthropomorphism. Yet its members, also known as furries – people who represent themselves using their “fursonas,” or anthropomorphized animal characters – are often targets of criticism and ridicule because of their interests.
At Olson Zaltman, we live and breathe empathy and compassion to better understand the human experience – so when we saw people criticizing furries, we didn’t just nod along.
Instead, we dug in to uncover what the furry community could teach us about what it means to be human.
CONNECTION THROUGH COMMUNITY
We’ve all felt out of place at some point. And when we do, we try to find a place where we feel we can belong.
For furries, this “place” is the furry fandom – but not everyone in the fandom started off with an explicit interest in anthropomorphics. Many initially saw a community – a place where they could share their music, their art, their interests, their thoughts, and their feelings… but most importantly, a place where they didn’t have to feel alone. While a shared interest in animals and anthropomorphics helps furries become initially acquainted, it is the social support they give and receive that creates their tribal feelings of shared meaning and deep connection.
As a result, furries who have never met are fiercely loyal to one another, banding together to protect each other from the hatred and disrespect that the fandom is often faced with. For this reason, many furries consider the community a “home” in which they are free to be themselves.
FURSONAS AS STEPPING STONES TO SELF-ACTUALIZATION
The fandom is a special, supportive, and nonjudgmental space where furries feel free to express their individuality and creativity. They can discover who they dream of being, who they have the potential to be, and ultimately, who they truly are.
This self-discovery often occurs through their fursona – which, for many furries, represents an idealized version of self. This self is both a literal and metaphorical “mask” that they choose to wear over that which society deems “normal,” “appropriate,” or “acceptable” – allowing furries to let go of the social pressures that orient their persona towards who others want them to be.
Freed from feelings of fear, shame, or guilt, fursonas can be thought of as a “stepping stone” to actualizing one’s personal ideals and becoming the best and truest expression of oneself.
FREE TO BE
The opportunity for self-exploration – coupled with warmth, acceptance, and empathy from other members of the community – allows furries to “practice” being who they truly want to be while promoting greater self-esteem and overall wellbeing.
As furries strive to become more like their fursonas, they unconsciously adopt some of their personality traits, such as confidence or extraversion, and integrate them into their everyday interactions – retaining parts of their fursona even after they shed their mask.
The opportunity to find oneself – and to become one’s truest self – opens furries up, not just to themselves, but to the world.
What do these findings say about your consumers?
Furries make up a closely-knit community of individuals who share interests, attitudes, and traditions, as well as consciousness and purpose. They are fiercely loyal to and deeply passionate about the fandom and what it represents.
What can their story teach us about building a strong consumer tribe?