The Merit of a Mascot
Many brands and businesses make use of a character, animal, cartoon or even actual human beings to be the front and voice of their company in advertising.
But are they actually a good idea for a modern business? Are they tacky and out of date or effective and engaging?
When you think of Michelin Tyres what do you see in your head? What about when you think of Disney, Nintendo, Frosties cereal, Pringles, KFC… if you’re anything like us you see a character in your head for every one of those. The Michelin Man, Mickey mouse, Mario, Tony the Tiger, The Pringle guy (who is apparently called Julio Pringles!) and Colonel Sanders. This is an incredibly powerful position for a brand to be in. They have penetrated the public consciousness and an image has formed in the heads of 90% of the population when your brand is spoken out loud. With an image comes familiarity, and with familiarity comes trust.
As human beings we are fundamentally inclined to engage with something that lives, something we can have a relationship with, like or dislike, understand and relate to. In the case of something like Michelin Tyres, the customer is faced with an inanimate boring object, a tyre, that at first glance looks no different to every other tyre brand out there. But in 1894, the Michelin brothers had the idea to create a charming visual of a man made of tyres to appear on all of their posters and advertising, and people liked HIM! Regardless of the product, customers engaged with the character and his adventures on their ads! This set them apart. No longer were they forced to put images of a dull ring of rubber on their adverts, they had the Michelin Man! Or ‘Bibendum’ as he was first known! As his popularity grew, the Michelin Man became a symbol of quality in the tyre industry and garages would put his image out front to encourage customers.
As this trust builds, and the brand grows with increased business, a good character mascot can enter the public consciousness and become truly memorable, or even more an institution. Imagine the outrage you would feel if Kelloggs retired ‘Tony the Tiger’ or Monopoly gave ‘Rich Uncle Pennybags’ the boot? These are our characters now, and we love them, dearly. It would be like losing a well-loved celebrity! This market penetration leads to an immense power with advertising, consistency of branding and even in-store POS. With a character this well known you only need to place them on a poster or some packaging and the customer immediately knows where they are and what they’re looking at. More powerful than even a good logo or strong colours and typography, a character engages with our base human instincts and we recognise it like we would a member of our own family.
But I know what you’re going to say. “Of course these mascots work, we see them every day, they’ve been around for decades”… But I’m a new business, a small business. Should I consider a mascot?
Well first things first, Mascots don’t work for every brand. They work best on foods, entertainment brands and inanimate products. But Mr Muscle showed you could put a Mascot on a cleaning fluid and the Meerkats showed us you could do it with a price comparison service. It takes creativity and imagination to make a mascot really work, but you can certainly expect some advantages as a small business by trying it out.
A mascot can quickly and immediately make your brand’s character clear and apparent, making a customer’s decision of whether or not to engage with your brand, quicker and more informed. An entertainment brand might go for a cartoon character to show they are family friendly and suitable for children, a food brand might go for something classy and elegant to show they are professional and mature. A clear brand character helps customers choose your brand and affirms your brand’s position in the market.
A mascot can be formed from an aspect of your logo, or wear your logo proud on its chest. This reinforces your logo at the same time and pushes both aspects of your business forward.
More engaging advertising:
A mascot is an incredible vehicle for more imaginative advertising through storytelling. Another thing we as humans love to engage with are stories. Take the clever Oxo and BT adverts that followed a family, or the comedy Daz adverts that played off of Soap Opera cliff-hangers. We love a good tale and a mascot gives you a character and a world straight away. Just look at the Coco Pops ads with Coco the Monkey always trying to keep his Coco Pops away from his crocodile enemies! Instead of trying to sell your product through pricing, advantages or boring testimonials you can create a truly imaginative and engaging character experience that will be remembered for ages. Just remember those Meerkats again…
Mascots can be an immensely powerful tool for both large and small brands but it takes a great design team, a talented illustrator and a strong idea and plan of how to roll it out, to make it work. There are genuine benefits for small businesses to try the mascot route and you never know, if it’s a success, your mascot could be up there rubbing shoulders with Mickey and Mario!
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