So, you’re developing a PR campaign and you’re weighing your options…What will make this campaign stand out among the rest? A myriad “ingredients” to consider. As you contemplate, your co-worker’s dog trots down the hall and pauses to peer into your work space. A dog! Exactly! That’s it! Ah, but does integrating a dog into your new campaign make sense? And will it really help boost the campaign’s success? cat-71494_1280

Two things to consider…First, yes, research shows consumers respond favorably to campaigns that include dog images. But, second, does adding a dog (or cat or other animal) blend well with the product/service you’re promoting or is it an awkward add-on?

First, the research…..According to a recent Northwestern Oklahoma State University study, “Research has shown that brand identity is only one reason advertisers use animals to promote their products or services…. Establishing an association between visual images, the products/services, or the brand name is the first step to increasing sales.” Dogs, the study states, are the most commonly incorporated animal. McCutchen (2005) suggests this tactic “is common because consumers are attracted to, and fascinated by animals.”

Geico, Aflac and Target sure think it’s the right way to go. Geico, known for its cute gecko, Aflac for its famed quacking duck and Target for Bullseye the dog, have invested a lot of time and effort to keep their character as part of their brand. And for Geico, for example, the success has been huge. Their commercials have been viewed more than 25 million times (2012), more than any other car insurance company.

Now, the important question of compatibility between your client and an added animal. Does it make sense? It is in harmony with the product/service you are promoting? And most importantly, is your client aligned soundly with animal causes? The last thing you’d want is to add an animal element only to find your client or someone in its leadership has been involved in a negative animal incident. Take, for example, the Twin Cities dentist that is abhorred by many after it was revealed he is a recreational big game hunter and he killed beloved Zimbabwe lion Cecil.

In a recent Hubspot article, “7 Shameless Tactics Marketers Use to Lure an Audience,” the use of cute animals is listed as the No. 1 “shameless tactic.” You don’t want your client’s brand to be accused of such a blatant attention-getter.

So before you start rushing off to schedule a photo shoot with your co-workers furry friend, be sure you’ve weighed the element of inserting an animal into your client’s next campaign. If it’s suitable, go for it. If not, let sleeping dogs lie.