Why We Love & Hate Brand Mascots

Guess what day it is!

Guess what day it is!

Only one thing can cause middle school principals to ask kids to tone down the camel nonsense every Wednesday, give my boyfriend the inspiration to dress up as a “hot babe out jogging” for Halloween in a suit and a pink sweat band and replace Chuck Norris jokes with “the most interesting man in the world memes.”

Brand mascots are often effective communication tools for consumer brands. They create ripples on social media sites and spark conversation, but evidence suggests the hype is much more than just talk.

According to USA Today, brand mascots add more value to companies than celebrity endorsements. In addition, associations are so strong even toddlers can make judgments on brands based on mascots alone, according to Slate Magazine.

I grew up with the Energizer Bunny, Captain Crunch and Mickey Mouse, but as social media  has grown more and more important, many characters are now popping up on YouTube (Remember Mr. Six from the Six Flags commercials?) and Twitter, engaging with consumers and fans and generating even more direct conversation between brands and consumers.

Some of the brand mascots that have gone digital include Aflac duck, Tony the Tiger, Flo from Progressive, Mr. Clean, The Green Giant, Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome and Mayhem, of course. (Fun Fact: Mayhem has a handsome, Spanish-speaking partner in crime, Mala Suerte)

Of the most notable brand mascots, many represent insurance companies, making them more attractive to consumers and bring them to life. For example, Business Insider named Allstate’s Mayhem as “The Man Who Made Insurance Interesting,” and Aflac used a duck to skyrocket revenue. The Harvard Business Review refers to the Aflac duck as a rock star in Japan.

The idea was born when a colleague at Aflac’s creative agency pointed out that “Aflac” had a similar sound to a duck’s quack. After some experimentation and planning, the CEO fell in love with the idea and after only one year, the company’s profits shot up by 29 percent. The Aflac duck put the company on the map for insurance in the United States and Japan, its two major markets. Today, Aflac covers 25 percent of households in Japan.

It all started with a quack.

What can we learn from success of brand mascots?

All of the mascots that have taken off and changed a company’s brand recognition involved a company taking risks. Aflac’s CEO was taking a huge leap of faith when he went forward with the idea for the duck commercials as well as the other brands whose mascots are equally quirky.

If all else fails, move on to what’s next. GEICO is a good example of a brand that has evolved from mascot to mascot, creating tremendous buzz and triggering mass renditions, although not all were popular in the public eye. (Check out NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki’s rendition of GEICO’s hump day advertisement.)

When Brand Mascots Go Wrong

According to Business Insider, consumers only like a small percentage of brand mascots. Top reasons include creepiness, obscurity, vagueness and just plain stupidity. Many of the mascots that meet the “most hated” criteria belong to fast food brands. Although McDonald’s mascot, Ronald McDonald, has lasted for decades, he is much less loveable than mascots of other industries that have better engagement with consumers. A possible reason for Ronald McDonald’s lack of success since his 1963 debut might be that clowns are not generally seen as likeable.

What makes a good brand mascot?

  • Humanization of the brand (Or animalization in some cases.)
  • Recognition
  • Humor
  • Uniqueness

The best brand mascots make you feel something. You might hate a company’s attempt at creating a mascot, but chances are, you still recognize the brand and respond to advertisements with a positive or negative response.

What is your favorite brand mascot?

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