I am just back from a memorable safari at the Ranthambore National Park, near Sawai Madhopur in Rajasthan. Within the dense forests of Ranthambore, my wife and I were fortunate to sight the tiger twice. As the majestic tiger walked down to a stream for its evening drink of water, we could see the muscles rippling under its taut, long, striped body. There was a terrifying moment when it came very close to our vehicle, looked straight at us through its burning eyes, and snarled. Then there was a quiet interlude when it crossed the forest road ahead of us, and went back to its perch, from where it silently surveyed the world.

Here, in front of us, was one of the most charismatic beasts to ever walk our planet. The tiger was sheer poetry in motion. It was raw strength, pure elegance and natural majesty, woven beautifully into a single living creature. We were overwhelmed and awed. Later, we also saw a host of other wild animals and beautiful birds in the same forest — including the sambhar with its large rugged antlers, the sloth bear, spotted deer, nilgai , yellow pigeon and the spectacular red-headed vulture. They took our breath away, each in its own unique way. The safari was a magical experience, because when you come face to face with a wild animal, you feel fear, respect, admiration, excitement and awe, all at the same time.

No wonder then that wildlife is used so often as the name or design inspiration or overall theme of so many products and brands. Marketers know that wild animals and birds cast a spell on human beings, and appeal to us in many powerful ways. Wildlife, therefore, continues to remain a fertile forest for us to play in. Let us explore some key reasons that have contributed to this fascinating space.

Brand attributes Using a specific wild animal as the name or descriptor of a brand is perhaps one of the best ways of conveying the key attributes of the brand. This is because people are so very familiar with the attributes or features that distinguish these animals. Since our childhood, we have known that a tiger is strong, a dove is gentle, and a bull has lots of energy. Therefore, Red Bull immediately conveys an energy drink. Puma shoes are all about speed and athletic grace. A Jaguar luxury car is elegant and immensely powerful as it purrs to life, much like the animal after which it is named. Dove Soap is soft and gentle on the skin. Do note that these are four very different product categories — beverages, shoes, cars and soaps — yet the use of a specific animal as name immediately conveys the key attributes of the brand.

Even within a single category, different animals are used to convey varying attributes. For example, there are more than 30 cars named after wild animals. These include legendary global models such as the Ford Mustang, Chevrolet Impala, Volkswagen Beetle and Corvette Stingray. Their magnificent designs breathe the spirit of these animals.

I wonder when an Indian car or motorcycle named after a tiger or leopard or horse will be on our roads, and what these vehicles will look like!

Instant recognition A picture of a wild animal on any pack or label ensures instant recognition, in addition to conveying the idea of the brand. This is particularly important in small towns or rural markets in India, where semi-literate consumers may not be able to read brand names written in English or even in the regional script. Many years ago, I was marketing manager of a regional brand of tea called Gemini Dust, which continues to be the dominant market leader even today in many districts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The packaging of Gemini is dominated by a picture of twin elephants. Across all towns, a majority of consumers recognised the pack only because of this visual, referred to it as the “Twin Elephant” tea in Telugu or Hindi, and asked for it only by that name. I think the elephants also conveyed strong tea, which is indeed the brand proposition. Similarly, Tiger Biscuits, which are targeted at the mass market, are instantly recognised across India by the playful, animated tiger on the face of the pack. Perhaps the tiger used in this manner conveys both fun and energy, a perfect proposition for nutritious glucose biscuits aimed at children.

Memorability In many cases, the use of a wild animal in the name or logo of a brand delivers memorability, because it is so unique or, in some cases, even bizarre. A good example of this is Grey Goose Vodka, where the name of the animal sticks in your mind long after you have seen and consumed the bottle. Yet another example is Monster.com, the jobs and career opportunities website with the unlikely and generic wild beastly name of “Monster”. There is the memorable alligator on all Lacoste T-shirts, which makes these stylish, sporty garments stand out. There is Kingfisher Beer, which needs no introduction. Then, of course, can you ever forget the little blue bird which is the logo for Twitter, and which has given rise to the bird’s “Tweet” — today one of the most memorable words of our digital age. In all these cases, the target consumer is quite literate, and does not need these images to identify the brand. The animals used also do not convey any specific attributes. On the other hand, they do add to the stickiness of the brand name. I wonder if Lacoste without its alligator would have been even half as memorable.

Origin and Imagery Brands can use the names or images of animals to evoke their origins, or the larger-than-life imagery around these origins. For instance, the logo for Assam tea uses an image of the great one-horned rhinoceros, and in doing so it evokes the imagery of the vast Kaziranga National Park in Assam, which houses two-thirds of the world’s population of these splendid animals. Similarly, the brand name “Kiwi Air” immediately conjures up images of New Zealand, where this airline is based – since the Kiwi bird is so closely linked with that country. Think of the limitless branding possibilities here.

Handicrafts from Africa can bring up imagery around exotic giraffes or zebras. Tea grown in the Nilgiri hills in South India can bring to life the Nilgiri Tahr, a handsome mountain goat that lives in this region. Coconut oil from Kerala can use the rich imagery around elephants that are native to the state.

As this brief article has illustrated, wildlife offers so many different branding opportunities. Scientists have estimated that there are more than seven million species of animals on earth. So the field is virtually infinite, and all that is required to play in these rich brand forests is an appropriate product and a marketer’s wild imagination. If you have come across any other brands with interesting wildlife names that have appealed to you, do write in and let me know.

Harish Bhat is author of Tata Log: Eight modern stories from a timeless institution. These are his personal views. He acknowledges valuable inputs from Sria Majumdar, Tata Sons, in the writing of this article. bhatharish@hotmail.com

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