Brand Animals.

 

 

Ever wondered why a meerkat is trying to sell you insurance? Or a polar bear is trying to find you the best deal on a hotel room?

It seems to be more and more common; brands are turning to animals to represent their stake in the market... but this is nothing new. Anthropomorphism has featured throughout history, and to great success for many of the worlds largest brands! These mascots have often become celebrity ambassadors in their own right. They are just as identifiable, if not more than a good logo and we as consumers don't really seem to be questioning why. Of course, an owl can recommend a holiday deal... Owls are smart. Of course, a gecko can sell me car tires... Geckoes have a tremendous grip! These are simple metaphors which we can easily relate to, a child could grasp the concept. 

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These characters are the highly refined personification of their brand values and/or product traits - they are tapping into something prehistoric in our human nature. Marketers know how much we love to humanize non-human objects, and nowhere is this more prevalent than in countries like Japan for example. On some level, animals and brands are intrinsically linked.

 
There’s also a safety in a controllable mascot, it’s highly unlikely the Michelin man will be tweeting anything controversial anytime soon. Brands can test and control their message by having the animal perform the script, passing on the key message perfectly to consumers. 
 

There's no denying a great deal of consideration and investment has gone into making these characters a household name. It's a reliable way to embed your brand in the customer. When it's done well - there's a whole persona to engage with and relate to, the story can continue to evolve and react to the market. Think of all the brands you can immediately identify via their spirit animal... Red Bull, Jaguar, Energizer Bunny, FireFox, Twitter, the list goes on... Even Optus at one time put all their marketing eggs in the mascot basket. 

It was interesting to see how a well-known brand like Optus transitioned out of their mascot addiction. What seemed like a small step for their evolution, ended up being a not so giant leap into a different kind of mascot - another character...

With the work of creative agency RE - Optus have since transitioned yet again into their current more vibrant brand expression of 'Yes' while utilising the speed traits of Usain Bolt. The end result and strategy is far more playful, expressive and relatable than they could have possibly achieved with a giraffe. The future looks very BRIGHT for the telco post animal mascot.

Quite often with my brand work, I'm discussing the ways identity elements can claim a stake in the competitor landscape. We look at values, creative direction, core aesthetic and unique characteristics to position clients independently from their competitors. Colour palette is often one of the first pieces of the puzzle we explore... For example, it would be risky and potentially illegal to launch a new chocolate brand with purple - Cadbury own this space. But it's never been a discussion of "which animal suits us?"

 
I question whether this age old tactic is a lowest common denominator or one of the best things a large brand can do. What do you think?