Anthropomorphic brand presenters: the appeal of Frank the Sheep
Link to publisher version (URL)
During the 2011 financial year, Disney, one of the world's top 10 brands, generated US$38 billion (Donnolley 2012), a result that owes its success to an anthropomorphized mouse, first syndicated in comic book form in 1932.There is more to the Disney story than Mickey, of course, but the popularity of the company's animated creatures with human features is based on a relationship with animals that predates history (Guthrie 1995). The symbolic importance humankind has ascribed animals has been evident in our cultures: our religions, dance, art and narratives for millennia (Lerner and Kalof 1999). Animal depictions on the walls of Lascaux and Altamira caves, dating back almost 20,000 years, are thought to have conferred magical powers on their hunters in the hope of increased success against their antagonists, or, alternatively, as Clark (1977) suggests, they may have been depictions of envy and admiration, which eventually saw animals chosen as the sacred, or totemic, symbols of human groups, gradually turning into what we might call religion. In time, these sacred idols, or gods, came to be described in the similar human forms of their believers, a practice described by the Greek philosopher Xenophanes as anthropomorphism. Evidence of our attempt to connote animals and objects with symbolic meaning to help us make sense of the world around us is still to be found in, for example, Christianity's dove to represent the third member of the Holy Trinity, and Hinduism's god Ganesha, depicted with an elephant head and human body. Our relationship with animals has been and remains a multi-faceted one. Not only have we idolized them, we have hunted and domesticated them, harnessed their power when it has exceeded or threatened to replace our own, drawn on their capacities as pets to calm boys' supposed 'natural' brutality (Serpell 1999), and we have invited them to share our homes and lives as trusted and faithful companions. Animals have provided good service as moral agents in allegoric tales, and enhanced our health and quality of life (Serpell 2002).