Animal Instincts: a Branding Exercise

If your brand were an animal, what would it be?

Wendy Ruyle 10.15.2012

We have many techniques we use regularly with clients to find out what their brand means to them and what it could mean to their customers. An oldie but a goodie is the “If your brand were an animal, what animal would it be?” exercise. You’d be surprised what animals pop up.

How it works

The technique is pretty self-explanatory. Say you have a large group of stakeholders and you are at the beginning of a branding process. Get everyone in the same room and do some exercises to figure out who you are and why it is important to your customers. In this one, each person should write down the animal or animals they think best represent the brand. Once everyone has picked an animal, go around the room and get all the animals and why they chose them. Capture each animal on a white board or large Post-it note page.

After you have all the animals up, have everyone vote for their favorites by using a check mark or placing a small Post-it on the page. Step back, look at which animals got the most votes, and discuss. That’s the important part. The discussion. It doesn’t really matter whether you chose a cheetah or a greyhound if the reason for both is that your brand is fast.

Capture the key words and descriptors that come out of the discussion. These are the basis for your brand platform. What you stand for and who you are.

Why it works

The reason this works so well is that we apply attributes to animals all the time. Elephants remember, dogs are loyal, bees are busy. It’s also something that everyone can relate to and doesn’t require much preparation.

But people don’t always rely on stereotypes and that’s where it gets interesting. We had a session once with a client that had a very large group of stakeholders. We did this exercise and there were lots of cheetahs and large cats coming up but one person said, “Our brand is a duck.” What? Why? The reasoning is what makes this exercise so valuable. They appeared calm and relaxed on the surface while they were paddling like mad down below. An insight we would’ve never gotten to had we asked the question in any other way.

There are dozens of group exercises out there, but this is an old favorite because of its ease and the surprising insights it can provide. Try it out yourself. You’ll be happy as a clam! (Sorry!)

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