Brand Ambassador

The purrrfect brand ambassador


August 24, 2015

Guess the brand: since 2009, they’ve become one of the most successful advertising campaigns of all time. They’ve been credited with more than doubling the value of their business, leading to several spin off microsites, a range of cuddly toys (complete with their own social media profiles), and the birth of a catchphrase that’s become so popular, it’s now officially in The Collins English Dictionary – simples! Who would have thought that a meerkat in a smoking jacket with a vaguely Russian accent would find himself catapulted to fame in such a way?

Yet it’s now not an unusual phenomenon at all – since Compare the Market’s Aleksandr arrived on the scene, we’ve seen more furry and flamboyant creations than we can keep up with – it’s hard not to crack a smile at the likes of the unlikely friendship in Budweiser’s ‘Puppy Love’ commercial, Three Mobile’s ‘singing kitty’ ad, and Freeview’s cat and budgie singalong.

These characters stick with us in a way that other brand ambassadors just don’t – but why?

To me, it’s down to emotional impact. Broadly speaking most people, at some point in their lives, have known and loved an animal, so watching endearing creatures do crazy or cute things triggers a warm emotional response, which is then projected onto the brand. People are far more likely to share a piece of content if it has a tangible ‘feel good factor’, and animals are the perfect vehicle for this because they are so universally relatable. They reflect us, but at our most unguarded and unselfconscious – so we can vicariously enjoy the heightened emotional states and way-out situations that they get themselves into.

Our furry friends also offer the perfect opportunity for brand engagement. When ‘Puppy Love’ was launched by Budweiser, viewers were asked to use the #BestBuds hashtag to post pictures of themselves with their pets across social media channels – a clever way to tap into a viral zeitgeist and get viewers to generate and share their own content around the campaign. It’s incredible to see how animal related content appears to have evolved into an online genre of its own (there are now entire websites dedicated to cat videos!), so it’s unsurprising that companies are increasingly using animal ambassadors to promote their brands.

So will the trend lose its appeal? Or will marketing become so over-saturated with animal mascots that people will eventually lose interest? The latter seems more likely to me – we’ll get to a point of animal excess, and then start looking for the next big thing. But who knows? One thing’s for sure – with the quality of CGI getting better every day, our animal characters are able to feel and do more than ever, and with that likely to improve yet further, I doubt the creature craze will wain just yet.

by Lara Murphy

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