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Famous Bunnies in Advertising: Trends, Uses, Case Studies


While bunnies may be cuddly and cute – they also can also teach us some important things about advertising.  Here are three examples:

Even the Energizer Bunny Gets Tired

While the Energizer Bunny has been around for a long time and is recognized as one of the Top 15 corporate spokespersons, their 1997 “Bunny Chasers” campaign created by TBWA/Chiat Day proves that the tried and true sometimes needs to be re-evaluated.  The campaign attempted to play off of the movie, Twister, released that same year on DVD and featured young scientists who chased after the bunnies and reported their many “bunny sightings”.  The videos were shot using handheld cameras, supposedly to mimic the documentary style seen in the film.   While some in the industry applauded the efforts to bring a fresh spin on the well known icon many critics slammed the campaign and wished to see the bunny retire earlier.  To make matters worse, Energizer battery sales growth for 1997 was less than that of the entire battery industry reinforcing that the campaign was not effective.

Lesson:  Recognizable icons or spokespersons can be great, but sometimes the past just can’t be brought into the present.

Bugs Bunny:  Creating Fake Memories

While Bugs Bunny has been involved in many types of advertising and entertainment – from the movie Space Jam and being the spokesperson for drinks such as Tang and Kool-Aid – one of his greatest contributions to advertising was when he was used as part of a study measuring the effect of advertising on a person’s memory.

In 2002 a group of psychologists set out to prove the theory that it was possible to “implant” memories in the minds of others (i.e. consumers). Using a group of 120 people (all who had stated they previously had visited Disneyland or Disneyworld), the created four groups and gave each of them a different ad.  Group 1 received a printed advertisement for Disneyland that had no mention of any of the parks’ characters, or any other cartoon characters;  when it came to group 2, they reviewed the same exact ad except a large cardboard Bugs Bunny cutout was placed in the room with them. Group 3 was duped by reading a fake ad that promoted Disneyland and contained images of Bugs.  And then there was the fourth group who read the fake ad AND had  a cardboard cutout of Bugs Bunny.  After reviewing these materials, about 1/3 of those in Group 4 vividly recalled shaking Bugs Bunny’s hand at Disneyland.  Obviously, however, that is impossible as Bugs Bunny is property of Warner Brothers, a director competitor of Disney.

Lesson:  Using imagery and ads that evoke a memory can affect how a consumer views a brand and their advertisements.

Trix Rabbit:  Crowdsourcing before it was crowdsourcing

Almost 30 years before Doritos made a splash with their “Crash The Superbowl Contest” which introduced the masses to crowdsourced advertising content, Trix cereal was letting their consumers in on the action.

As any of us who enjoyed TV commercials can recall, in the spots for Trix cereal, the rabbit always came up short on getting to taste the product because, of course, “Trix are for kids!”.  Realizing that some of the viewers felt bad for the hungry rabbit, they decided to run an advertising campaign during the 1976 Presidential campaign.  The campaign, created by the Dancer, Fitzgerald & Sample Advertising Agency asked consumers to send in their letters by mail (old school, I know) letting the company know if the poor rabbit should get a taste of his favorite food.  The vote was a landslide with 99% voting that yes, he should get a taste and that he did in a commercial that debuted later that year bringing us an early version of crowdsourced advertising content.

Lesson: It always breaks down to this: The most important opinion is always that of the consumer.  Give them what they want.  Give the rabbit some Trix!



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