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 more and more common; (big) brands turning to animals to represent their stake in the market. These mascots have often become celebrity ambassadors in their own right. They are just as identifiable, if not more than a good logo.
This is nothing new. Anthropomorphism has featured throughout history, and to great success for many of the worlds largest brands! Yes, an owl can recommend a holiday deal… Owls are smart. A gecko can sell me tires… Geckoes have a tremendous grip! These are simple metaphors which we can identify with, an infant could easily grasp the concept. These highly refined personification of brand values and unique product traits are tapping into something deep in our human nature. On some level, animals and brands are intrinsically linked because of this.
Think of all the brands you can immediately identify via their spirit animal… Red Bull, Jaguar, Compare the Market, Energizer, Hotels Combined, FireFox, Twitter, the list goes on… and on. Even Optus at one time put all their marketing eggs in a whole zoo of mascots.
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 recall your brand message in customers. When it’s done well – there’s a whole persona to engage with and communicate through. The story can continue to evolve, react with the market, and keep with the times.
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 – a human 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. Post animal mascot – the future looks bright for the challenger telco.
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.
Quite often with our brand work, we are discussing the ways identity elements can claim a stake in the competitor landscape. We look at values, creative direction, core aesthetics and unique characteristics we can utlise to position the 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?”
We question whether this age old tactic is a lowest common denominator or one of the best things a large brand can do. Might the available brand animals become more and more obscure in the future? What’s your spirit animal..?
When good intentions fail.
We love a good design challenge.