Some are cute, cuddly and friendly; others aggressive, fierce and ferocious. We love them. We have them in our homes as pets. We visit them at zoos and in their natural habitats, and here at Conversation, we even have one as our office mascot.
Animals have not only been in existence long before humans, but throughout the years they have infiltrated into pop culture as iconic symbols; representing a wide range of brands, products and services from fast food to top Fortune 500 companies.
Is using animals as a marketing tactic a successful way of capturing an audience? Yesterday, Winston’s article effectively proved this to be true. Although he encouraged his fellow editors to explore schnauzers in advertising, unfortunately it appears as if they’ve been underutilized by marketers. Therefore, let’s consider how some of the most memorable animals have been incorporated into advertising campaigns, both old and new (Sorry, Winston!)
¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!
From 1997-2000, this bi-lingual Chihuahua was seen in a series of TV commercials on a mission for ultimate satisfaction: to consume Taco Bell products and convince hungry patrons to do so while barking signature catch-phrases such as “Yo quiero Taco Bell!’ “Drop the Chalupa!” and “Viva Gorditas!” In a cross-promotion with the 1998 film Godzilla, the dog notably attempted to trap the monster in a box, luring him in and taunting him by saying “Here, lizard lizard lizard…”
Sometimes depicted as a Mexican dog wearing a sombrero, The Chihuahua became so likeable that toy figures and stuffed animals were produced, generating millions in sales. However, despite his popularity, many Latin Americans accused the dog of being a cultural stereotype with a demeaning accent.
In July of 2000, the campaign was dropped as the ads ultimately failed to motivate the public to purchase the product.
Gecko, not to be confused with GEICO
Geico’s ads often feature its reptilian mascot, the Gecko, a small, green CGI-animated lizard to persuade consumers to save money on their car insurance by switching to Geico. The Gecko made his debut in 1999 during the Screen Actors Guild strike that prevented the use of live actors, with the tagline that reads “Fifteen minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” Originally voiced by comedian Kelsey Grammar, in his first TV spot the Gecko becomes irritated by people calling him in error, as he is a GECKO and not to be confused with GEICO.
Succeeding commercials depict the Gecko joining the company as a representative, in which he speaks in a Cockney accent supplied by English actor Jake Wood. In current commercials, with advancements in the quality of computer animation, the Gecko speaks in an accent that is more working-class in an effort to further humanize him.
This persistent duck has been quacking the Aflac name into the ears of unwary, perspective policy-holders since January 2000 on a mission to remind them of the company name. In one spot, the duck scrutinizes an airline passenger by shouting “AFLAC” from outside the plane’s window. In another, he interrupts a couple by annoyingly positioning himself between them in bed.
In 2011, 36 year-old Dan McKeague from Minnesota won a nation-wide social media contest to be the new voice of the duck, beating roughly 12,500 applicants. The first commercial featuring Dan’s voice was a 30-second spot with a breakdancing competition between the Aflac duck and a pigeon.
Having starred in over 30 commercials, the duck is now enshrined on Madison Avenue’s Walk of Fame as one of America’s Favorite Advertising Icons. Aflac’s company identity has grown to become widely recognized as a result of his celebrity status.
In advertising campaigns throughout history, the use of animals has had both positive and negative effects on increasing awareness, sales and growth of a company’s brand.
Although not every campaign has successfully executed this tactic, for reasons including but not limited to message or cultural sensitivities, the ubiquity of animals and our natural adoration for them makes them ideal and memorable subjects for brand mascots.
As long as the public continues to show their love for these furry, feathery or ferocious friends, they will reign not just in their respective animal kingdoms, but in the pop culture kingdom as well.