The Personality Behind PETA

“Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any way,” is the brand proposition of the world’s largest animal rights organization, PETA. The acronym PETA stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, and is known for their extreme stance on the treatment of animals.  This non-profit organization is based in Norfolk, Virginia and has over 3 million supporters who avidly believe in it’s mission.  The four main areas that PETA focuses on where animals suffer the most are factory farms, clothing industries, laboratories, and the entertainment industry.  There are many reasons for PETA’s success as a non-profit organization since its founding in 1980.  One main reason for the organization’s success is how they have fostered their strong brand personality.

PETA’s brand personality can be described as aggressive, emotional, and persuasive.  These characteristics can be seen in their advertisements, commercials, endorsements, and website.  Aggressiveness can be seen on the organization’s website through its use of language and tone.  The language used can be seen as aggressive because it is dramatic and creates a serious, yet sad and drastic tone.  One example from the website (even before you arrive at the main page) is a pop-up that takes up the entire screen.  The pop-up “greets” visitors the first time they view the website and features a graphic image of an ill-treated animal.  Language on the pop-up is bold, red, and uses exclamation points.  The message states, “Right now, millions of cats, dogs, primates, rabbits, pigs and other animals are poisoned, mutilated, and killed in laboratories.”


Emotional appeals come into play as you continue onto the main page of the website and see horrific images of distressed or dead animals.  PETA uses this technique to form their brand personality because people’s emotions are triggered when they see either sad photos of animals, or even victory stories of animals that PETA has saved. PETA keeps their promise of saving more animals by having a readily available donation section on the homepage. Supporters who are moved by PETA’s mission are able to fill in their information and donate to save more animals with just one click. This allows supporters to create an emotional attachment because they aspire to create an ideal self by donating to the cause.


A large portion of PETA’s success can be attributed to their use of celebrity endorsements as a means of persuasion. Celebrities such as Bob Barker, Carrie Underwood, Simon Cowell, and Audrina Patridge have all teamed up with PETA to support their mission and cause. One campaign in particular that remains consistent with PETA’s brand personality is represented by former Miss USA winners who advocate the idea that they would rather go naked than wear fur. These advertisements are meant to make the viewer feel uncomfortable in an attempt to call people to action. Even Academy Award winner, Joaquin Phoenix, has paired up with the organization to make an influential video that relates to his own personal experience dealing with animal cruelty.

PETA’s brand personality continues to be strengthened because supporters are able to express their identity by representing the organization.  The combination of these three characteristics create an overall concept of what to expect of PETA, which is both distinctive and enduring.  Other than these three characteristics (aggressive, emotional, and persuasive) what comes to mind when you think of PETA? Do you feel that their brand identity is distinctive and memorable?

– Aaron Love, Kara Zimmerman, Rachel Clay, Rebecca Hobbs