Animals: the Peanut Butter to Marketing’s Jelly

Case in point: You saw these cute pets; you clicked on the post. (Credit: Thinkstock)
Case in point: You saw these cute pets; you clicked on the post. (Credit: Thinkstock)

In today’s marketing arena it isn’t unusual to see animals taking on roles as brand ambassadors. Some may even argue that it is more common to see animals acting as humans in commercials than their usual selves. It seems like the goal of many brands today is to capture consumers’ attention by making them say “aww.”

Many brands like Twitter (bird), MGM (lion), Meerkat (um, meerkat) and Disney (mouse) use animals as their logo, while the likes of Geico, Aflac and Bush’s Baked Beans use animals as their “spokesanimals” or brand ambassadors. Why? Because animals have the ability to tap into consumers’ emotions, and it makes them more inclined to pay attention to a brand’s message that might otherwise be unrelated to them.

Aflac’s duck is a great example of this. Even as a child, before I ever thought about or needing any type of personal insurance, I could identify the duck with the brand and what it offers. The same can be said for Geico’s gecko or its “hump day” camels (clearly insurance companies are on the animal bandwagon). These brands have mastered the art of catching people’s attention through association with our four-legged, two-legged, or no-legged friends.

Brands have also started going beyond simply using animals as their logos and voice. Many companies are now creating advertisements and commercials completely unrelated to their products to catch viewers’ attention. Most notable is Budweiser and its use of the Clydesdale horse in its recent Super Bowl commercials. The ads had virtually nothing to do with beer yet almost everyone I know can easily associate them with Budweiser due to the feelings they evoked in them. The emotional attraction people feel toward animals makes them far more likely to take notice of brands that utilize furry friends to sell their product.

Also, marketing videos become more captivating when they are viewed as stories rather than simple ads. Think about how Friskies’ “Dear Kitten” video series has gone viral and been shared all over the Internet. Animal videos have led to their own online video genre, and they have led the way for viral social media campaigns and prominent memes – Grumpy Cat, anyone?

So, next time you’re thinking about a new marketing campaign, don’t rule out the use of animals – clearly us humans can’t get enough of them.

Wait! What? 3/6: Deep space branding and Vince Vaughn’s stock photo debut

It's really not that different from other stock photos. (Getty/Fox)
It’s really not that different from other stock photos. (Getty/Fox)

Thousands flocked to Barcelona this week for sunshine and sangria – er ahem – Mobile World Congress, meaning we’ve seen a ton of posts about cool new gadgets and cutting edge tech. Aside from this delightfully weird smart pocket watch, here’s what made the headlines this week:

  • Apple will bump AT&T off the Dow Jones Industrial Index at the end of March, providing more evidence of technology’s dominance in the U.S. economy.
  • Twitter plans to give advertisers access to 1,000+ target audiences who have expressed “purchase intent.” We clearly didn’t already have enough ads in our streams.
  • Vince Vaughn and his co-stars posed for ridiculous (and free) stock photos ahead of the release of their newest movie “Unfinished Business.” A great example of how PR stunts can bring joy to the Internet, which can always rally around ridiculing stock photos.
  • Speaking of PR stunts, or rather, missteps, the controversy over Hillary Clinton’s year-long use of private email for government business, is a good example of what not to do when it comes to email security at work.
  • Finally, in case you were wondering about the universe, it turns out innovative technology for deep space missions also needs social media for branding. Just ask NASA’s Jet Propulsion Labs.

Those were our favorite stories of the week; hope you enjoy! Otherwise, you’re free to continue debating whether Jarod Leto’s or Kim Kardashian’s big blonde reveal was better.

Your Brand Is Probably Not Bae


If you’re a social media-obsessed public relations professional like me, you may have noticed a certain “ep-bae-demic” spreading across brands’ social media conversations over the past several months.

In the midst of developing an identity on social media, several brands – many in the food and restaurant industry – have chosen to adopt a voice that resonates, or should I say “seeks to resonate,” with a much younger audience.

Introducing “bae”: A common term among millennials that often refers to one’s boyfriend or girlfriend. For example, “Can’t wait to come home and curl up with #bae (insert long list of lovey-dovey emojiis).” Interestingly, The Wall Street Journal also adds the following definition: “Bae can be aspirational – someone of romantic interest. The term has also inevitably evolved to apply to inanimate objects. On Instagram, a particularly mouthwatering plate of BBQ could be #bae, for example.” Among brands tweeting the #bae hashtag are Taco Bell, Burger King, Chili’s, Applebee’s, IHOP, Jimmy John’s, Mountain Dew, Walmart and Gain. (To see more brands that have been caught in the act, check out the “Brands Saying Bae” Twitter account.)

In an effort to sound “less corporate” and more like the 14-year-old kid next door, brands are aging down their social conversation to better connect with their younger audiences. The real question though, as discussed in a recent article in Digiday, is “whether it makes sense for brands to go down that road – and at what point they begin to risk looking ridiculous.”

The article suggests that brands that age down their language by adding in terms like “bae” and “on fleek” are struggling to connect with their audience in a meaningful way. This is because brands that don’t understand their audience enough to develop a natural connection find it easier to mask their message in more youthful terms. (“On fleek,” for the record, is defined as being “on point.”)

The key to creating an engaging and meaningful relationship is understanding the audience, and using the right language is one way for a brand to show it understands its audience. Brands such as Taco Bell and Mountain Dew might find it more beneficial to use this type of language because of their youthful following. However, brands such as Walmart and Gain, with an audience of predominately women and mothers, might want to think twice before tweeting their “bae.”

Media Magnates: Does the Man Make the Brand?

Rock Center
Rock Center

This past week, the world of broadcast media was sent through the wringer when the beloved Jon Stewart announced he was leaving The Daily Show and NBC suspended Nightly News anchor Brian Williams for six months following his absurdly unnecessary string of lies.

What Stewart and Williams have in common is that they’re arguably broadcast television’s most famous faces. Their shows don’t support their personal brands; their personal brands make their shows. Without these two as the titular hosts, both nightly segments are at a crossroads in terms of future popularity.

Obviously a certain level of iconic, untouchable celebrity does wonders to preserve and grow a media program’s audience. Even when John Oliver took over for Stewart one summer, the show famously kept the name The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. So just how important is a central personality to a media brand’s appeal? And how far can one person carry (or in Williams’ case, sink) an entire news institution?

Ultimately, it depends on the diversity of the program’s offerings. Is there more to the show than the person delivering the news? Are there classic segments or consistent running themes? How strong is the brand’s personality and how unique is the reporting?

If I were an NBC executive right now, I’d be concerned about this in regards to Nightly News. I don’t know about you, but I can’t name a single thing about that show other than, “It’s hosted by Brian Williams.” Well, was. The news delivered on that show isn’t exactly magical content that you can’t find in thousands of other media outlets. And it doesn’t help that viewers, especially we the coveted millennials, now trust the whole program less, if we even cared about it in the first place.

I think The Daily Show, on the other hand, will be fine. Losing Stewart will be a blow to the brand, for sure, but audiences loved the show before Stewart joined years ago and they will continue to love it in the years following Stewart’s departure. Why? For one, it has a stellar supporting cast that’s produced countless other fan-favorite personalities over the past few decades. And its award-winning production staff isn’t just going to give up on the masterful program they’ve spent years refining – and to which they’ve consistently added relevant content that appeals to a wide range of viewers across different mediums. In other words, consider the number of Daily Show YouTube videos that have gone viral compared to the number of Nightly News ones.

So what does this all mean for media brands? Well, if you work at a company like The Economist, you’re pretty set. The brand delivers intelligent, varied and consumable content across print, Web and social channels (and events – that’s where a lot of the money is). It’s also such a trusted source that it doesn’t even need to attach the names of reporters to its articles. But if your journalism brand relies entirely on content produced and delivered by one key celebrity, just remember that person could always lose that clout in a matter of seconds – or move on to something new – and seriously screw your whole program.

Wait! What? 8/29: GoPro’s Fetch lets you channel your inner dog and Hammacher Schlemmer introduces underwater thrusters

GoPro Fetch
GoPro Fetch

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, right? Before you take off and enjoy the much-anticipated Labor Day weekend, here’s a little recap of this week’s hottest news:

  • Becoming the next Iron Man just became a little more realistic with Hammacher Schlemmer’s new underwater thrusters! Propel through the waters in this unique pair of pants – yours for one low payment of $31,000 (and government approval, of course).
  • Ever wonder what it’s like being a dog? With GoPro’s new Fetch harness, you can see the world from your dog’s perspective – drool, chewed bones, and all!
  • Want to win a lifetime of free Taco Bell (and heartburn)? Find one of their “everlasting” dollar bills and you may be in Doritos shell and waffle taco heaven. Good luck.
  • Actions speak louder than words…or do they? A senior brand manager from Bissell Canada (yes, the vacuum company) decided to showcase his brand loyalty by adding a little ‘flavor’ to the old-time phrase.
  • Here comes the end of the SMS text era. Introducing the ridiculous, yet entertaining Emoji-only messaging app…called Emoji (go figure). Enjoy!

Well, that’s all, folks! Want to share your favorite story from the week? Tweet us @BlancandOtus or leave a comment below.