On ducks, dogs, bunnies and branding.

By:  Lori Ohlmann, Senior Vice President, Account Services

Remember the RCA Victor dog Nipper, posed with ear up and head cocked in front of the Victrola? The accompanying title to this famous painting was “His master’s voice.” Nipper was certainly a lovable guy. But more importantly, his attentiveness to the speaker conveyed the fidelity of sound projected by an RCA product, with the title driving home that point.

Although animals are surefire attention-getters when it comes to the branding process, they’re very tricky in terms of ultimate effectiveness. Why, for instance, did the Taco Bell Chihuahua fail to boost declining sales, yet the Geico Gecko and the AFLAC duck have helped raise audience awareness of their respective brands? Can an animal in advertising work too well?

In terms of merchandising, the Taco Bell Chihuahua is probably bested only by the Energizer Bunny. From t-shirts to toys, these two icons may perform better as products unto themselves than as boosters of a brand. After all, didn’t we see more Chihuahua than chalupa? And, I know that rabbit, but which battery does it belong to?

The success of animals as brand shepherds may also be a function of their primary purpose. One big hurdle in the branding game is name recognition. So we have “Geico” and “gecko” … “AFLAC” and “quack.”

Maybe a Chihuahua is cute in some fashion, and maybe the dog will get the customer to bite …but animals have no inherent magical power to get your brand where you want it to go. Before we start playing Dr. Doolittle, we need to think hard about whether Fido will carry your brand to new heights … or bury it in the backyard.


Penny Ohlmann Neimann

The Ohlmann Group has a rich history that began in Dayton, Ohio in 1949, where the agency was founded as Penny and Penny by Bob Penny and his wife Jean. In 1964, Walter Ohlmann joined the firm. Ralph Neiman came on in 1969 and the firm became Penny/Ohlmann/Neiman. In 2011, P/O/N was renamed The Ohlmann Group to better reflect the agency's ongoing evolution and collaborative nature.

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