The Appeal of Animals in Advertising
July 20, 2018
How brands use animals to influence consumer perception
During breaks from college, my favorite “welcome back” is from my two dogs—a Labrador named Copper and a Border Collie named Jack. They’re always so excited to see me, and it’s adorable. Approximately 60 percent of Americans own a pet, and whether you have an Instagram account dedicated to your furry friend or don’t particularly love animals, the human-animal relationship is powerful and extensively utilized in advertising. Real or computer-generated, animals signify qualities with which a brand may want to be associated, and they are a great way for companies to grab our attention and make an emotional connection. Here are a few brands that have benefitted from using animals in advertising:
In 1933, the CEO of brewing company Anheuser-Busch received a six-horse Clydesdale beer wagon from his two sons to celebrate Prohibition. The presentation moved the family to tears, and the phrase “crying in your beer” was coined. Recognizing the marketing potential, the company sent a second wagon to New York to present then-Governor and anti-Prohibitionist Alfred E. Smith with a case of beer in front of cheering crowds. Almost 90 years later, Budweiser’s website states the horses are not only a symbol for Budweiser but “the living embodiment of America’s great industrial spirit.” The brand has become instantly recognizable with its Clydesdales, which communicate power, obedience, beauty, and tradition. The commercials featuring the animals are emotional and connect all audiences. More recently, Budweiser used the relationship between man and dog to powerfully convey the message to never drink and drive in this commercial. Budweiser has been successful in leveraging our affinity for furry friends, a strategy that has won them plenty of viral acclaim in the age of social media.
When Duracell released ads depicting wind-up bunnies running on Duracell batteries, Energizer responded with an advertisement that shocked its rival. The company created the infamous Energizer bunny, who upstands the tiny Duracell bunnies by pounding on his drum in the confrontational commercial. The company began an Energizer bunny campaign with a slew of commercials that would first appear to be an advertisement for a different product such as “coffee or nasal spray” until the unrelenting Energizer bunny interrupts with his drum. An Energizer representative states the bunny is “the ultimate symbol of longevity, perseverance, and determination,” and the company attributed a seven percent sales jump in 1992 to its new mascot. This was no coincidence. Research has shown that mascots improve consumer perception of a brand and positively influence purchasing decisions. The Energizer bunny seems to have cemented its place in the mascot pecking order, with the fluffy pink rabbit giving life and humor to the mundane activity of buying batteries for almost 30 years.
In 2010, Twitter introduced the silhouette of a bird to its logo, and thus, the Twitter bird was born. The company wanted its logo to characterize the tweets that were imperative to its brand, and the bird represented the “quick and speedy” nature of reading and posting content on the platform. Of course, a “tweet” sounds like the chirping of a bird, as well. The first bird sat next to the word “twitter,” but in 2012, the Twitter bird broke free. The company became so popular that it no longer needed to use its name in the logo, as the company had become synonymous with the silhouette of the chirping bird. In a blog post about its logo, Twitter summed up their chosen symbol: “Whether soaring high above the earth to take in a broad view, or flocking with other birds to achieve a common purpose, a bird in flight is the ultimate representation of freedom, hope and limitless possibility.”
Ultimately, many brands capitalize on a given animal in their branding and advertising based on the characteristics of the animal. Honorable mentions go to Evernote and Firefox. Evernote, a cloud-based notetaking app, evokes the old adage “An elephant never forgets” – ensuring customers feel safe entrusting their notes and data with the company. Firefox features a fox in its logo, communicating the browser’s ability to be quick and agile. Counterintuitive as it might sound, animals can also be used to bring an emotional, human feel to an otherwise dull product or company. The unexpected Geico Gecko is known for its wit and humor when presenting commercials for insurance with an English accent, and Charmin uses fluffy bear families and cute koala bears to sell toilet paper. In all, advertising with animals is a great way for brands to get our attention and make an emotion connection that appeals to the human-animal relationship.
Alex Ellis is an Intern at Bond Moroch.