Animals in brands – have they got their dues

Brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company's product or service. Brand in single word collates the characteristics and expectations that a consumer has with the associated product or service, by which goodwill and reputation of a company is built.

In order to grab consumers' attention and leaving a lasting impact in their minds, corporates strive hard to make their brands easy to absorb and quick to remember. Animal brands are one such variety created either in form of their names or images/logos/caricatures or both. From Ferrari's prancing horse to Puma's leopard, animals have been used as powerful brand icons for hundreds of years. Animals are effective in creating a strong brand identity because they are often universal in nature, are easily recognizable & distinct and can transcend across borders. Their inherent qualities co-related to the products /services create an effective brand recall and thus are great for marketing. For instance, the brand "Camel" for cigarettes was chosen for both the name and the visual identity because it helped to connect the brand with the Turkish blend and exotic mystery of Middle East. "Dove" for its soft and gentle characteristics has been adopted in selling the personal care products; and "Puma" known for its speed and aggressiveness has been adopted for selling athletic shoes and apparels.

Due to their inherent characteristics and global reach, animal marks have by far been one of the most successful means of branding. Companies have earned revenues to the tune of billions of dollars, thanks to the intrinsic qualities of animal brands. Brand Puma for instance is valued at $ 1.9 billion; Ferrari & Burberry, both using ‘horse’s ymbol as their brand, are valued at about $ 4.7 billion each. The impressions of these brands have been etched in the minds of consumers so well that they rank high in terms of brand recall and recognition.

While animals have contributed enormously in building huge goodwill, reputation and revenues for many businesses across the world, we are left wondering what such creatures get back for their names and symbols being used for commercial purposes. Giving back to society is well recognized. How about giving back to animal species/ecological balance.

The Indian Biological Act, 2002, aims to conserve the use of biological resources and to share the benefits accrued from the use of such biological resources. The Act imposes conditions of sharing financial benefits arising out of the commercial utilization of biological resources, which means if a biological resource is being used by a corporate in its products, then a portion or share of profits should be contributed towards the National Biodiversity Authority which shall utilize the said fund for the conservation and betterment of natural resources. Taking a cue therefrom and imbibing similar principles in the branding exercise (though in strict terms no natural resource is used except for the name of the animal), should it not be ethical as well as moral responsibility for corporates using animal trademarks and brands to share financial benefits by way of contributing towards the conservation and preservation of such animal species. It is only because of the animals' name/image that their businesses have acquired tremendous reputation and contributed in swelling their top and bottom lines. Such contribution can also be correlated with provisions laid down under Section 135(5) of Indian Companies Act, 2013, according to which at least 2% of the average net profits are to be spent towards CSR related activities.

No doubt, a few brands have led such initiative in true sense. For instance, men's apparel brand “Turtle” contributes a share of its profits towards conservation and protection of Olive Ridley turtles in India. “Turtle” has entered into partnership with TSA (Turtle Survival Alliance) for this purpose. In 2008, the Global Environment Facility, World Bank and International Union for Conservation of Nature together launched the ‘Save Your Logo’ campaign with the aim to help conserve the species used in brands/ logos. “Lacoste” became the first international brand to support this campaign and committed to protect certain species of crocodiles, alligators, caimans or gharials currently endangered and whose loss would jeopardize the ecological balance of their habitat areas. MAAF, a well known French company, and Val d’Isère, also followed suit in contributing to the preservation and protection of dolphins and eagle, respectively. Similarly Hong Kong based “Crocodile” though does not directly safeguard crocodile’s interest but joined as a member of WWF to promote environmental conservation.

While Turtle, Lacoste & few other brands have been doing their bit to conserve and preserve the significant animal resources, it would be interesting to see if they can set an example for other animal brands to follow similar initiative.