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Thirsty Lion animal design label
Don’t get in the way of this thirsty lion on his way for a reflll

If your logo or trademark contains an animal, or your products are targeted for animals, you probably have an animal incorporated into your label design. Obviously, good brand identity means that the Thirsty Lion is going to have a thirsty lion on the label; it wouldn’t make sense to have it otherwise.

Some “animal branding” is immediately recognizable, like Tony the Tiger or the Budweiser Clydesdales. The Red Bull logo would not be the same with those two bulls butting heads, and the rearing horse on a Ferrari talks of the power and freedom you’ll feel in the car.

Cheesemonger's Table label - sheep, cow, or goat milk options
This label will show you where your cheese originated
In some cases, you may have an animal design on your label in order to give more information about the product. It can tell you something about the ingredients, like these writable labels for the Cheesemonger’s Table, with checkboxes to specify whether the cheese is made from sheep, goat, or cow milk.

On other labels, a cat or dog image lets you know who that treat is intended for.

But brand identity and product information are not the only reasons to add an animal to your label. 

Emotional Connections 

There are strong cultural and emotional meanings tied to animal symbols – in many Western cultures, doves symbolize peace, a bee means industriousness, a fox is clever or cunning, an owl stands for wisdom, etc. Other animals elicit different emotions – kittens and puppies, cuddly-looking koalas and pandas, for example, are seen as warm, friendly, or comforting. Studies show that animals can help in consumer recall, as well – “Oh, yes, the package with the fiery dragon on it! That was great hot sauce.”

What Animal Design “Says”

Animal design - Serengeti Exhibit label with zebra stripes

Big cats, bright parrots, and other wild animals tend to make people think of luxury and exoticism. If the animal has a pattern, like zebras or leopards, that pattern can be incorporated into the label design to add an unexpected graphic element. Tigers and elephants imply strength and may convey a sense of Asian influence. Lions, giraffes, zebras are instantly recognizable as African savannah elements, with all that implies.

The aforementioned kittens and puppies, as well as grown cats and dogs, are both familiar and attractive, particularly to children.  Movies like Bambi have associated animals like fawns and bunnies with endearing sweetness. Labels featuring these creatures impart of feeling of comfort and hominess. They’re also good for seasonal labels in Spring.

For power and strength, think horses, bulls, or dragons, not butterflies, monkeys, or hummingbirds. Eagles, hawks, whales are majestic; ravens, coyotes, and otters are amusing tricksters.

Want to appeal to hunters or fishermen? Deer, elk, and game birds like ducks or pheasants lend your label design an outdoorsy feel. Sport fish, like swordfish, trout, are great on any labels for that target audience.

Dramatic creatures, like sharks or octopi, can really make a label pop, perhaps even with an undertone of danger or menace.

Use With Forethought

Of course, many animals can span different categories, and depending on your use, can convey different ideas. The penguin on the KwiKool label is a different creature from the juggling version on the ProCare Software label. While both are cute, one is being used to convey an image of chilliness and the other calls up an idea of children and playtime.

KwiKool label
KwiKool has one chilly penguin; your A/C will work!
Procare Software label
ProCare Software juggles your child-care management needs

The animal design you use should also tie in to your product in a coherent fashion. You don’t want to put an image of King Kong on your “Lullaby” candle, for instance; a lamb, kitten, or teddy bear would be a much better choice. A kitten would probably feel out of place on a beer label, although King Kong might be appropriate there, depending on the strength of the brew!

You should also be aware of regional or cultural icons. An eagle on a product may mean something different to a US audience than a Welsh one, because eagles are linked to death in their mythology, whereas in the US, it’s the national symbol. A label with a killer whale may connect with customers better in the Pacific Northwest than in Kansas.

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