If there’s one thing we know to be true about the British public, it’s that we’re a nation of animal lovers.
With over 65 million pets between us and a strong history of animal rights, our love of animals is a key part of our identity. It’s no wonder that so many British brands define themselves by their animal connections.
From Olaf the meerkat to Nipper the dog, we look at the brands with strong animal connections and the history behind them.
Nipper the HMV dog
Who amongst us hasn’t aww-ed at the HMV logo? The white mixed-breed dog with black ears peering into a phonograph is an image we all know and love. But what many of us might not know is how long ago Nipper was alive.
Born in Bristol in 1884 (yes, really), Nipper rose to fame after featuring in a Francis Barraud painting. This is actually the painting that inspired the HMV logo, as well as many other brands including Berliner Gramophone and RCA Records. His name came from his habit of affectionately nipping the backs of people’s ankles.
The famous image shows Nipper listening to his late master’s voice through a gramophone. His curious expression is the reason Francis Barraud, brother to his first owner Mark Barraud, immortalised him in a painting. It not only inspired HMV’s logo but also its full brand name, His Master’s Voice.
Not only has Nipper the dog been commemorated in the brand’s logo but he has also been recognised in his resting place. The Lloyds Bank that now exists where he was laid to rest has a commemorative plaque in his honour. In 2010, a road near his burial site in Kingston upon Thames was renamed Nipper Alley. A fitting tribute to a well-known and well-loved pooch.
Compare the Market meerkats
It would be impossible to talk about British brands with animal associations without mentioning Compare the Meerkat…whoops, we mean Market. The brand is synonymous with its talking meerkat mascots, starting with CEO and founder Aleksandr before introducing IT whizz Sergei and adorable baby Oleg.
Interestingly, one of the reasons the brand decided on meerkats as a mascot was to drive down online advertising prices. The brand launched in 2008 at a time when search marketing was soaring in popularity, choosing “meerkat” instead of “market” to drive down cost-per-click prices from £5 to 5p!
We love these fictional meerkats so much that the brand introduced cuddly toy versions of them as rewards for new customers. Although this promotion has been replaced by 2-for-1 movie tickets, it was hugely popular. Some fans were dedicated to collecting all of the toys, while others used the site only to get one – a great marketing tactic for the company.
The Compare the Market meerkats were arguably the most successful advertising mascots ever and, although they weren’t the first (Churchill the dog springs to mind), they inspired other brands to try and recreate their success with their own animals. Aleksandr, Sergei, and the gang will always hold a special place in our hearts, though.
Fearless the Fentimans dog
Here we have another brand animal that has ties to a real-life creature. The Fentimans logo is famous for the panting dog it features, and what a dog she was. German Shepherd Fearless was the family dog of the brand’s founder, Thomas Fentiman, and was a two-time Crufts champion, winning the obedience classes in 1933 and 1934. Good dog!
So proud was Thomas Fentiman that he began to use a portrait of Fearless on the brand’s bottles, including its ginger beer and tonic water. Fearless’ likeness is also featured in every one of the company’s drinks factories, including a fetching mosaic in the Gateshead factory.
The continuity of using Fearless on to ‘guard’ the brand’s products feeds into its emphasis on heritage. Fearless featured in an advertising campaign that honed in on the adage: “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” with the brand concluding: “In our case, that’s very true. Thankfully.” The brand is loyal to its roots, and that definitely includes Fearless.
To further honour Fearless’ memory, the fizzy drinks brand launched its She Is Fearless award, dedicated to recognising the achievements of female colleagues for International Women’s Day. What a way to be remembered!
There’s no shortage of brands that use animals to connect with us thanks to our status as a pet-loving nation. Some have been more memorable and successful than others, as we can see with the popularity of the Compare the Meerkat toys. Will we see this trend continue into the future?