The psychology behind using animals in advertising

June 2021 Written by Papirfly

In this article, you'll learn...

  • Why consumers have such an affinity for animals in advertising
  • How to determine the right animal to represent your brand
  • The reasons and stories behind some of the world’s most recognisable animal logos

In the UK, there are numerous brands to choose from that produce toilet paper (don’t click away, there is a point to this!).

Cushelle. Velvet. Nouvelle. Spring Force. But, there is a reason why Andrex has nearly twice the market share of its nearest competitor. And that is the Andrex Puppy.

When it first appeared in an Andrex TV advert in 1972, Andrex’s market share was 23%. By the end of the 1970s, this had risen to 30%. Today, over 130 adverts later, it is by far and away the most recognisable brand of toilet paper in the country.

This is just one example of the power animals offer in advertising. Thousands of brands across the globe have turned to the animal kingdom for inspiration when it comes to logos, mascots, campaigns and more, with some achieving mammoth success as a result.

But, why do consumers often feel such a strong connection to animals in advertising? That’s what this article will explore, as well as sharing the origins behind some of the world’s most recognisable animal logos.

Emotional connections to animals

First, let's talk about emotions. As humans, and more precisely as consumers, we are often guided by our emotions. In fact, some have argued that up to 95% of all purchasing decisions are decided subconsciously – driven more by emotions and physical feelings than by thought or reason.

While that might ruffle a few feathers among marketers, it demonstrates the power that our emotions have over the choices we make. And few things can evoke those emotions as powerfully as our feelings towards animals.

In Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, he describes the commonality between animal species as innate, which forms a link between animals and humans. This accounts for the attachments that humans feel not only to their beloved pets, but to animals more generally – either domesticated or wild.

This emotional bond is clear to see. Just hop onto YouTube, search for any animal and prepare to be lost in an ocean of compilation videos with millions of views dedicated to the funny and interesting behaviours of these creatures.We are fascinated by animals, and they will typically elicit strong positive or negative emotions from us upon sight of them. And because of these emotional bonds, they will often capture our attention when they are featured on adverts or brand logos, whether they are real-life versions like the Andrex Puppy, or cartoon equivalents, like Aleksandr Orlov of Compare The Meerkat fame.

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Why do animals help in advertising?

Aleksandr neatly brings us onto the effect of anthropomorphism in branded communication.

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This is because, as we naturally recognise human behaviours the most, we find it comfortable to assign these to how animals are behaving. Consequently, if we see an animal displaying a form of “human” behaviour, it can capture our attention and help build an affinity between us and it.

Think of all the films and television shows that have featured animated animals that can speak, walk on two legs, have jobs, etc. This is a testament to our fondness, particularly at young ages, to see the connections between animals and humans, and this is also evidenced in a wide variety of brand mascots, such as the GEICO Gecko, Tony The Tiger and The Laughing Cow.

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People are led by visuals

As well as our tendency to be guided by our emotions, humans are also predominantly led by visuals around us. More than 50% of the surface of our brains is dedicated to processing visual information, so we will often respond to and understand imagery more strongly than we would text.

With this in mind, animals have a positive allure that makes them very effective visuals when trying to capture someone’s attention. If we have a positive association with a particular creature, we are more likely to approach something that bears this resemblance.

Simply put, the powerful emotional bonds that we share with animals and our preference to absorb information visually, means that an effective animal-driven logo or campaign can really resonate with people in a way that other visuals lack.

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Attributing characteristics to animals

Tying into our need to assign human traits to animals, for generations certain animals have been widely seen to represent certain characteristics and values that we can then apply to humans and, importantly here, to brands.

The wise owl. The cunning fox. The brave lion. These are attributes assigned to these animals that we all recognise from a young age, perpetuated by both classic fairy tales and fables to modern popular culture references. Naturally, many brands have piggybacked off of these traits that we have assigned to these animals as a way to show off their own values in a way people can quickly understand.

We will discuss a number of famous animal-based logos later in the article that demonstrate this. But for now we have broken down the characteristics that a range of animals are said to symbolise, which many companies have harnessed in visualising their own brands.

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Animals’ places in global cultures

Finally, it’s also important to consider what animals represent in different cultures across the globe, particularly for brands with an international reach, and how this can reflect on them being featured in advertising or on iconography.

Well-known examples of this phenomenon include the cow being viewed as sacred in India, and that cats were revered by the Ancient Egyptians.

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6 famous animal logos and why they were chosen

Evernote

The choice of a green elephant for Evernote’s logo is founded in one of the most recognisable animal-related idioms: “An elephant never forgets.”

In a similar vein, Evernote’s capacity to store and save notes is intended to put their audience in the same position, ensuring everything is captured and can’t be forgotten.

Lacoste

A crocodile might not immediately spring to mind when you think of an animal that typifies luxury clothing. But, this choice stretches back to the brand’s founder René Lacoste who, during his time as a top tennis professional, was nicknamed “The Alligator”.

So, the logo is both a representation of Lacoste’s long-standing roots, and also a commitment to working with the same tenacity that their founder had on the court.

NBC

The famous peacock-style logo that now adorns NBC was in response to the network’s original owners, RCA, being one of the first to sell colour televisions.

The colourful nature of the peacock, which has been elaborated on in NBC’s designs throughout the years, emphasises that commitment to colour, and now represent the 6 divisions of their organisation: news, sports, entertainment, stations, network, and production.

Swarovski

After previously using an Edelweiss flower for over a century to depict the purity of their glass, in 1988 Swarovski pivoted to an even more iconic logo, their famous swan.

This was with the belief that a swan represented their core values – simple elegance and classic finesse. It provides an image that is both welcoming yet luxurious.

Ralph Lauren 

The instantly recognisable horse of Ralph Lauren has hardly been changed since it was unveiled in 1974. It was launched by a young entrepreneur set on selling the aspiration of the American Dream.

The logo takes its inspiration from the prestigious game of polo that has come to symbolise class and tradition. As well as capturing the essence of this exclusive sport, Ralph Lauren has become synonymous with a high standard of living, fashion and status.

Bacardi

When the Bacardi family acquired their distillery in 1862, there were many bats living in the roof of the building.

Rather than run away terrified, the family took that as a signal of fortune, and emblazoned the bat on their logo, where it is now viewed to symbolise family unity and good health.

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Using animals in your advertising

We hope you’ve enjoyed this insight into why animals are so synonymous in advertising, and the psychology behind this.

Whether it’s a social media powerhouse like Twitter, a luxury car brand like Lamborghini, or energy drink aficionados Red Bull, the prevalence of animals in advertising is hard to ignore, and now you know why they are so ingrained in branding globally.

However, while thousands of brands have used animals in their iconography and wider campaigns, it is not a sure-fire path to success. So, before you consider incorporating animals into your company logo or wider advertising, consider:

  • What animals embody the traits and characteristics you see in your brand?
  • How do you want your customers to feel when they see animals in your advertising?
  • Are the animals endearing on their own, or would they be better animated/humanised?
  • Does your design style lend itself effectively to the animal in question?

When you have strong answers to all of these questions, you might be on the path to producing the next WWF Panda, Twitter songbird, or Aleksandr the Meerkat.

 

 

by Papirfly

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