—Karl Schweikart & Susan Hopp, both of 45 Degrees/Minneapolis


I bet you’ve noticed this long-time naming trend: Having the word “dog” in the names of brands that have nothing at all to do with dogs or pets or even animals. What gives?

A quick Google search of the term “black dog” turned up these results in the first 10 pages:

Black Dog Café (there must be hundreds of these around the country – are they in competition?), Coffee & Wine Bar, Tavern, Coffee, Store, Yoga, Gelato, Smoke & Ale House, Architectural Salvage & Antiques, Tall Ships, Warf, Promotions, Studios, Forge, Books, Knits, Builders, 8 (fashion showroom), Fishing Charter, Inn Bed & Breakfast, Coffeehouse, Coffee Company, Diving, Baits, Lodge, Props, Sports Ski Shop, Publishing, Photography, Cycle Works, Studio, Recording Studio, Handcrafted Jewelry, Graphics, Outfitters, Mastering Studio, Video & Audio Productions, Speed Shop, Clays, Architects, Construction, Gallery, Boat Works, Racing…

Then there are White Dog, Red Dog, Yellow Dog, Blue Dog, Brown Dog, Silver Dog, Angry Dog, Bad Dog, Barking Dog, Big Dog, Double Dog, Laughing Dog, Loud Dog, Lucky Dog, Mad Dog, Modern Dog, Snap Dog, Top Dog, The Bulldog, etc. The list is seemingly endless.

So, why “dog” in brand names? Is it that dogs are fun to draw? (think logo), cute? (really? Barking Dog?), familiar? (sure, but…), or maybe the word just sounds good and is easy to remember? I think most likely it’s the “best friend” thing. People like dogs, and there are a lot of them out there.

According to the American Pet Products Association, 62% of US households own pets, and of those 46% own dogs. That equates to 78.2 million owned dogs in the United States. Obviously dogs are popular. And it seems that the positive traits and characteristics of dogs – friendliness, loyalty, energy, playfulness, curiosity – are good brand attributes as well. Those positive associations are a key means of connecting with an audience. And judging by the number of uses of “dog” in brand names, it must be working.

Oddly enough, even a name like “Angry Dog Coffee” doesn’t necessarily possess negative connotations. You’d just expect to get full-flavored coffee served with a bit of attitude.

Let us know if you have other thoughts.

  • Excellent post, and I totally agree with the comments about the positive attributes of dogs for creating brands that are easily embraced.

  • My guess is that the dog branding appeals to baby boomers. Granted, dogs are an important part of an American family, but as baby boomer’s kids have graduated from high school and left home, dogs have played an increasingly larger role in the life of a boomer. That, combined with the spending power of America’s largest age group, make for a great brand image.

  • Ian H

    The Black Dog is a pan-European folkloric motif. First representing the devil in the early-modern period, it evolved into a varigated ghost story over the centuries and has been commonly used in literature (Conan Doyle, Ian McEwen et al.). Not really a very friendly thing, but perhaps a good name for a shop selling some really black coffee!

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