"Today more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation, and human to human, but also human to all other forms of life.”
-Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama (B. 1935)
“It isn’t fair. It isn’t FAIR,” I’d say to myself as I peered out the window of the backseat. I must have been about 8 years old when I first started noticing the logos. On buildings, clothes, brochures, stores, schools and food packaging.
Curious how lines and curves and color fit together to evoke meaning, I’ve always been keen on design.
I had one of those moments when you take notice of a particular thing that has always been there and then you start noticing it everywhere. What caught my attention was the animals in the branding. The mascots that freely identified strength, leadership, fearlessness, curiosity, fun and all the desirable traits a company wanted to portray.
This was by no means a new phenomenon. Animals have always been iconized in stories, theology and religion to represent different human characteristics. But logos are a little different. Logos represent businesses and businesses are made to make money.
Cruising 35 miles an hour through some unnamed town, I decided it wasn’t fair that businesses plastered animal symbols across their buildings and brands with no obligation. Rhino Auto. Did they pay any heed to the fact that rhino population has plummeted from 500,000 to 29,000? Did they care to donate any of their profits to support the real version of their beloved mascot?
They should pay the animals to use that logo.
MGM Studios, Mailchimp and Evernote are three big names using animal logos. It doesn’t appear that any of them make a concerted effort to give back to those animals. I’d think The Detroit Lions, the Carolina Panthers or the Chicago Bears could spare some cash to plant a few trees.
Even at 8 years old I wasn’t naive enough to think a law could ever be passed to make businesses pay back for using animals in their branding, but I thought it would be a good idea. Deforestation and habitat loss in the name of commerce should be paid back with community programs, rehabilitation projects and conservation. But it isn’t, it isn't fair and these brands are everywhere.
What about the real animals?
Don’t just say you love them, do something for them.
“If ever I was to start a company,” I thought, “I would give back”. Out of respect. Out of principle. Out of our human duty to these creatures that just want to live their lives and be free.
Wildini is a company dedicated to giving back to animals. The name Wildini comes from the phrase “wild-and-i”. A tagline came to me first: “Wildini the Animal Genie - granting wishes to animals worldwide”. It still has a ring to it, but I just stuck with Wildini.
I wanted to design and sell a product that would be useful, have minimal impact on the environment and inspire respect for animals. It wasn’t easy to check all the boxes, but after much deliberation and exploration of ideas, BittyMugs were chosen as the pilot product. I custom designed the mug shape and drew the animals by hand.
Eventually more animals will be included such as bears, frogs and whales, to appeal to wider audiences and bring awareness to more of the vulnerable and endangered species.
The company footprint will stay small to get the business to a sustainable state and then we hope to increase donations indefinitely. We’re not after new houses, fancy offices, or expensive vacations. This company was built to make a difference for the animals and the communities around them, and we have all intentions of following through with that.
Whether or not you agree with the idea of giving back to animals for branding rights, consider what’s behind those animal logos when you come across them. What connection might they have? Maybe they do give. You could find out. And if you plan to start a business, consider giving cash where credit is due. The Dalai Lama would approve.