Animals have an enduring appeal – they are a crucial part of our culture – part of growing up and being told stories. Whether the big bad wolf in Red Riding Hood or the industrious ant in Aesop’s Fables. We are also prone to anthropomorphise animals: in turn we become as ‘wise as an owl’ or, ‘sick as a parrot’. We are ‘primed’ with animal images from an early age and this is key to their successful use by brands. Think of Jaguar cars, Lacoste crocodiles, Ralph Lauren horse, or the Hollister seagull.
Building on psychological research about processing fluency, Labroo (University of Chicago) and Dhar (Yale University) wrote a paper called ‘Of Frog Wines and Frowning Watches’. They found that consumers have an easier time processing images when they are already ‘primed’ i.e. they have already thought about the image earlier in an unrelated context or if they already associate the image with something in their personal lives.
In one experiment, participants did a word jumble either searching for words related to dogs or words related to cats. They then participated in an ostensibly unrelated study and were asked to rate a series of products, including batteries and dog shampoo. Those who had done the word jumble relating to dogs, rated the dog shampoo higher, than those who had done the cat-related jumble. The influence was most pronounced when exposure to the product before evaluation was limited to 16 milliseconds, a period of time shown in psychological experiments to be pre-cognitive, i.e. below the threshold of awareness.
We remember the Baroness Philippine de Rothschild as an inspiration when we redesigned Mouton Cadet, a pioneer brand of the 60’s. The label featured decorative drapes forming a border, which we learnt reflected her career on the stage. The label was in effect a theatre but, there was nothing on the stage!
We looked to the brand name for inspiration, and brought alive the ‘mouton’ with ram’s head resplendent and a beard of grapes. The new label made both a real connection with the Baron and, provided an emotional hook that engaged consumers, it also was a gentle reminder that this was the accessible cousin to Chateau Mouton Rothschild. Art became performing art.
The word gazelle comes from the Arabic word ‘gazal’ meaning elegant and quick. Appreciated for its grace, the gazelle is a symbol most commonly associated in Arabic literature with female beauty. Sogrape Vinhos is launching Gazela Slender, a lighter, refreshing wine with a lower 5.5%ABV. Lewis Moberly’s design for the stylised, iconic gazelle on the label wins the eye and epitomises the beauty, grace and elegance that women aspire to, in a light hearted, contemporary and colourful way.
In St Moritz’s venerable Hotel Soldanella there is the ‘Zoo Bar’ so called for its serves of alcohol bearing animal names and images. Once intrepid Cresta run riders were welcomed into the bar with an “Elephant”, a drinking ritual whereby the guest, accompanied by loud feet stamping and cries of “The elephants are coming over the Alps!”, were expected to down Elephant beer through a drinking straw. Legend has it the Elephant beer supplies soon dried up and were replaced with a beer called Giraffe.
Who knows what is fact and what is fiction? Either way, animals provide a rich source of engagement and brand inspiration when it comes to branding. The French-language “Methodical Encyclopaedia” of 1782 was apposite when it defined a menagerie as an “establishment of luxury and curiosity.”