“A f*****g Jackalope?”
It was a bit absurd. Ridiculous. And brilliant. I laughed out loud as Sulli continued his semi-serious tirade on the other end of the conference call, which ended with something like, “it’s pretty cool to be honest with you…You might be on to something here.”
I agreed. We had wanted so see some wow-factor stuff out of our identity development partner TDA (www.tdaboulder.com; check them out—they do some killer work) in our identity project, and they were delivering. Other than making us smile, laugh, and curse at each other, the Jackalope concept had a few other things going for it:
The Jackalope belongs to Wyoming, and therefore belongs to Stio. In fact, State of Wyoming lawmakers trademarked the mythical creature in 1965, probably because they recognized its potential value in taxidermy trinket sales. For better or worse, our lovely state sells a lot of dead animals, and this one no one has to shoot. No competitor could rightly claim the Jackalope as its identifier or mascot, since none of them (despite consistent, hollow and exploitative marketing efforts) can truly call The Equality State home. They probably see it as too whimsical an idea anyway, but more on that in a minute.
Jackalopes are hilarious, and we like to think we’re pretty funny. Making people smile, laugh or curse at one’s identity isn’t a bad branding tactic. And a lot of people haven’t quite come to grips with the fact that they don’t exist. Until I told this story to him just a couple weeks ago, Tank Design (our creative firm) principal Scott Watts thought the stuffed, antlered rabbit above his grandfather’s mantle was the result of an epic backcountry battle and not a 1964 road trip to Yellowstone. In many ways, the Jackalope is an inside joke, and one we knew we could have a lot of fun with.
Jackalopes are badass. It’s tough to predict who might come out the winner in a three-way Thunderdome: the Honey Badger, Chuck Norris or the Jackalope. My money would have to be on the racked bunny. Consider (source – Wikipedia):
- as hybrid pygmy deer-killer rabbits, they are extremely dangerous
- female Jackalopes can be milked as they sleep and the milk can be used for treating disease
- the Jackalope can convincingly imitate any sound, including the human voice, and uses that ability to evade predators
- whiskey is their only vice and can be used to bait them, but can you really consider that a weakness?
- they only breed during electrical hail storms (that would have won any location contest I’ve ever heard of)
Despite all this, at the end of the day we just couldn’t take the leap. Deep in our hearts we knew we couldn’t look each other in the eye knowing we identified ourselves with a mythical bunny rabbit. While maybe a good idea, and a decent mark for an LA-based fashion brand or a Casper taxidermist, it just wasn’t us.
Instead, in a moment of early morning in-the-shower brilliance from Marketing Manager Candice Worthan, we came up with the White Bark Pinecone…talk about badass, and a symbol we hold near and dear to our hearts:
The Whitebark Pine belongs to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, and therefore belongs to Stio. We’re actually more than happy to share this majestic tree with the rest of the Rocky Mountain West (and the world—who doesn’t love trees?), but a significant percentage of the Whitebark Pine’s population is right in our back yard. We see them every day – during morning commutes, family walks, and on ski tours in Teton Park. They’re the elder statesmen of the area, tall and often twisted, strong but a bit bent from hundreds of years (they’ll live a millennium!) of persistent high-altitude winds.
The Whitebark Pine is an important wildlife food source. Grizzly and black bears, red squirrels, the Clark’s nutcracker and others feed on their hefty and nutritious seeds…A 180 mg seed (huge compared to other trees) has 52% fat, 21% carbohydrate and 21% protein (racking my brain for something comparable –maybe a monster milkshake, no wonder bears dig them).
The Whitebark plays an important ecological role. As a high-alpine conifer, the trees play a big role in natural runoff management. Their canopied branches delay snowmelt and regulate runoff throughout the spring and summer, providing consistent moisture for all.
The Whitebark may not last, [insert start-up joke here]. (KOW). This tree is threatened on a few fronts, and as a fundamental cog of biodiversity in the area, its decline will have a cascading, negative impact on the greater ecosystem. The combination of blister rust (a fungus) and pine beetle infestation is wiping them out. Fire suppression has also played a part, as the good occasional blaze goes a long way towards eradicated beetles and fungus.
Restoration efforts focus on harvesting cones from trees resistant to rust, prescribed burns and treating (one by one!) trees with verbenone and other insectisides…Humans are mobilizing, slowly and with modest-but-hopeful results, to save this important tree. Friends of ours at TreeFight are leading the charge locally.
…I could go on about pinecones, and how they represent human enlightenment, the third eye and the pineal gland in the brain (named after the pinecone). That gland is considered the seat of the soul and center of enlightenment. And seeing as how we’re talking a lot about conscious living and self empowered lifestyle in connection with the outdoors, we really dig this layer of meaning.
End of day: the Whitebark Pine Cone, with its place of import in the local and regional ecosystem, its tremendous nutritional value and rugged beauty make it the perfect icon and mascot for our identity. Just don’t be surprised if you see a Jackalope lurking from time to time in the land of Stio.