If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s… an incredible marketing and public relations tool. Let’s examine the role and use of animals in corporate logos, marketing and sales campaigns. Use of animals in corporate marketing can be cost-effective, highly effective and memorable. It’s time to put your pet on the payroll.
Barbara J. Phillips researched the topic in Advances in Consumer Research Vol. 23: “These creatures, called trade characters, are fictional, animate beings or animated objects that have been created for the promotion of a product, service or idea.” Why? According to her research, “Animal trade characters in current advertising… are effective communication tools because they can be used to transfer desirable cultural meanings to products with which they are associated.”
We are all familiar with these trade characters, some with names, some simply generic animals: Duke, the Bush’s Baked Beans dog; the AFLAC duck; the GEICO gecko; Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales; Gidget the Taco Bell Chihuahua; the Chick-Fil-A cows and the hundreds of others over the years. Why are they used? Because they are effective. A study of effective television advertising stated that, “Commercials with these characters score above average in their ability to change brand preference.”
Where did it all start? Perhaps posthumously. Nipper was a terrier who lived in England from 1884 to 1895. A painting of Nipper looking into the horn of a phonograph was registered in 1900 as the trademark of the Gramophone Company. Through a series of mergers and sales, Nipper served as the trademark of the Victor Talking Machine Company, RCA Victor, RCA, EMI, Columbia Records, Sony Entertainment Group and other recognized companies, and is owned today by RCA Trademark Management SA.
So what is “The Peabody Factor?” In 1932, as a joke, Frank Schutt, general manager of the Peabody Memphis Hotel, placed some live ducks in the lobby fountain. The public’s reaction was wildly enthusiastic, perhaps providing a few moments of light entertainment in the middle of the depression, and the ducks became permanent residents at all Peabody hotels. The Peabody Memphis website says former circus trainer Bellman Edward Pembroke taught the ducks the Peabody Duck March from the rooftop Duck Palace to the lobby fountain.
The Peabody has gained national acclaim as the ducks have appeared on the Tonight Show, the Oprah Winfrey Show, in People magazine and in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition.
Will your business benefit from a virtual animal on a logo or trademark? Can a pet in the business boost sales? Think about it. Maybe The Peabody Factor can work for you.
Philip Geist, PhD, is the area director for the Small Business Development Center, which provides free, confidential counseling to entrepreneurs and small business owners. Call 352-334-7230 or visit sbdc.unf.edu for more information. This material was condensed from Dr. Geist’s blog at sbdc.unf.edu.