Saturday, March 1, 2014

Brand Mascots: Hate them or Love them?

In today's society, brand mascots have been used effectively as communication tools for consumer brands. These communication tools often spark conversations and trend on social media websites, but with all the hype that surrounds brand mascots evidence is much more than just talk. 

According to an article published in June 2013 in USA Today, brand mascots garner much more related social buzz than celebrity  spokesman. For example, the Pillsbury Doughboy has 10 times more social buzz than celebrity endorses such as LeBron James with Nike. However in today's society, media creates the buzz and generates trends that spark someone's interest. According to Slate Magazine, these associations are so strong that even toddlers can make judgments based on mascots alone. 

Back in the day, I remember watching on TV and seeing Mickey Mouse, the Energizer Bunny, and Captain Crunch, however as social media becomes much more integrated in our society many characters from my childhood are now reappearing on YouTube (Like Mr. Six from the Six Flags commercials?) and Twitter which started to engage with consumers and fans, which ends up generating more direct interaction with the consumers and brands. 

While some brand mascots have been keeping up with the times and have started using a digital platform like Tony the Tiger, Flo from Progressive, Mr. Clean, The Green Giant, Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome. (Fun Fact: Characters that have been introduced throughout the company are his mother, Mama Tony; his wife, Mr. . Tony; his daughter, Antoinette; and son, Tony Jr. -- who were all introduced over the years but later dropped.)

It all started in 1951 when Leo Burnett wanted to introduce the public to four different characters. The most popular character would become the character on the box of Sugar Frosted Flakes permanently.Tony the Tiger competed against three other animals – Newt the Gnu, Elmo the Elephant, and Katy the Kangaroo. Within a year, the public made their decision that Tony the Tiger won the competition  and the other three were put out to pasture.

Because at the end of the day, They’re Grrrrreat!

What can we learn from success of brand mascots?
Mascots that have taken off and have changed a company's brand recognition involves a company taking risks. The people at Kellogg took a major risk when they hired Leo Burnett and allowed them to use Tony the Tiger as their brand mascot. With that leap of faith, they went forward with the ideas for radio spots, TV commercials and other types of advertisements which other brands whose mascots are equally as quirky and unique. 
If all else fails, move on to what’s next. Bud Light is a great example of a brand that has changed their mascot from time to time, creating enormous buzz and generating numerous interpretations, however not all of these interpretations were as popular as others. 
When Brand Mascots Go Wrong

The truth is, consumers only like a small percentage of brand mascots according to Business Insider. The main reasons consumers don't like brand mascots include vagueness, obscurity, creepiness and just plain dumb. Brand mascots that meet the “most hated” criteria belong to fast food brands. While McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald, has been in the public eye for decades, he isn't as love-able as other mascots in other industries. Perhaps it is because other mascots are much better engaged with consumers? Ronald McDonald might not be as successful as other brand mascots is because many kids and adults are scared of clowns.
So at the end of the Day, what exactly makes a good brand mascot?
  • Name. .
  • Benefit. 
  • Product.
  • Target audience.
  • Relationship.
To sum it all up, the best and most memorable brand mascots make you feel something. You may not with how a mascot is created, but you still will recognize the brand and respond to their advertisement, however you see fit. 

So take a moment and think: What's your favorite brand mascot? 

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