Never work with children or animals...
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Never work with children or animals...

It’s said that working with animals can be a career mistake, but can animal mascots actually save the day.

The theory behind the use of a mascot is quite simple: also called ‘spokescreatures’, they act as brand signifiers that aim to help people remember and identify with both a company and a product. They come in a variety of forms, from stylised people like the Homepride flour man, to a made-up character such as the current EDF-Energy flame.

However, the most popular type of mascot to date remains animal-based – going back to medieval heraldry, when knights would paint fantastic creatures on their shields.

It doesn’t take much imagination to think of a successful animal mascot – there are literally hundreds. Those of a certain generation may recall the PG Tips chimps, while more recent ad-break entertainment has come from the ComparetheMarket.com family of meerkats. For further evidence, take a look at virtually every Olympic mascot since 1964, and football fans regularly see human-sized animal mascots before the game begins.

Why are animals so popular? First and foremost there’s the cuteness factor – it’s hard to deny that the meerkats are appealing in the ads, whereas at the zoo it’s a test of endurance to spend more than 30 seconds in a meerkat house due to the smell they make. More importantly, unlike celebrity endorsements, animal mascots don’t age, die, create scandals or get the brand into trouble at an inconvenient moment.

Equally, different animals can be used to portray different kinds of business – the leaping jaguar on the bonnet of the luxury car brand is the prime example of this, portraying speed, power and elegance. The mascots of Laughing Cow and Anchor dairy products are both jolly and, well, dairy related, while clothing from Lacoste uses a crocodile in honour of its tennis-playing founder, René Lacoste, whose nickname was ‘the crocodile’.

Perhaps the most used animal mascot is the cat. Nominally used to advertise cat food – think Iams, Kattomeat and Felix – there was also the Tony the Tiger Frosties campaign, Esso’s ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ campaign, and the granddaddy of them all – the MGM lion.

Longer-lasting and often more effective than a human face, maybe the advice should be to ‘always work with animals’ – ou may find it does your brand the power of good.

Sammy Todd Former Marketing Manager CIM
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