Frosties = Tony the Tiger. Durcacell = the pink bunny. McDonald’s = Ronald McDonald. Nesquik = the Nesquik bunny. Camel Cigarettes = Joe Camel. Toys R Us = Geoffery the Giraffe. M&Ms = the M&M men. Sugar Puffs = The Honey Monster.
These are just a handful of popular mascot examples that brands have successfully used in their advertising campaigns for decades. The list goes on and on, but why do brands decide to create these weird and wonderful characters? Here are a few ideas:
1 – To add interest to boring products and services
Sometimes a product or service by itself can be pretty uninspiring. A tyre, some toasted rice, or some flavoured milk powder wouldn’t grab anybody’s attention if it wasn’t for the Michelin Man, Snap, Crackle & Pop, and the Nesquik Bunny. Mascots serve to give the consumer an image or idea to remember a product or service by as opposed to merely the product or service itself. A mascot has a personality, a style, a warmth and an identity which is then transferred onto the brand. Best of all, the advertiser can decide every aspect of these characters and portray their brand precisely how they choose to.
2 – To create merchandising opportunities
Businesses aren’t often content with profits from sales of their core products and services alone. Any opportunity to rake in some additional cash is always considered and often acted upon. When it comes to mascots and characters it’s often seen as an easy win to add an additional revenue stream. A great example of this in action is PG Tips’ Monkey character who has his own online store packed with all kinds of merchandise on sale at a premium price. The most well-known and successful example in recent years however is CompareTheMarket’s meerkat family. The company doesn’t offer them for sale, but instead gives them away to customers who use its service. Some analysts put CompareTheMarket’s success in a crowded and homogeneous marketplace solely down to its meerkat mascots.
3 – To allow for differentiation in crowded markets
Competition in certain markets is often fierce and advertisers explore every way possible to get an edge on their competitors. An effective mascot can set a brand apart from the crowd and give it the opportunity to catch the attention of a section of the market. Take the cereal market as an example. All cereal is ultimately a bag of dried food. What makes the cereal aisle one of the most colourful and exciting in the supermarket is each advertiser’s effort to capture the attention of the customer first. Tony the Tiger makes a bag of sugar-coated corn flakes highly interesting and he ultimately adds value to the product. Other corn-based cereals attempting to enter the market have faced a huge barrier to entry, all because of one personified big cat. More on the personification of animals can be read here.
4 – To generate positive sentiment
McDonald’s isn’t viewed as the most ethical of fast food restaurants, but its ever smiling clown that goes by the name of Ronald McDonald attempts to combat the negative attention that the brand receives. A well-conceived mascot can act as a shield for brands when things aren’t always going to plan. It could also be argued that these fun, fresh-faced characters have the biggest impact on one particular segment of the market – children. A bright, colourful and giggling character connects with kids on their own level and they then pester their parents with their newly formed preferences. On top of this, if positive sentiment can be generated within this segment a brand is likely to remain in a child’s consideration set as they grow older, at the very minimum.
5 – To give a brand a fresh start
A brand sometimes gets stuck in the mud. It might be an event that alters public perception about a company, or simply that a current advertising campaign or mascot has become stale and ran its course. The price comparison website market is again a good place to illustrate this. Go Compare’s mascot, until recently, was a widely detested operatic singer. The beginning of 2014 saw the advertisers introduce a completely new creative where Gio Compario was nowhere to be seen and a new Welsh tour guide appeared to take over the role of mascot. The same goes for Confused.com, who ditched its cartoon-style creatives for a brand new robot named BRIAN. Viewers are often quick to forget the old and embrace the new when a well-conceived mascot is involved.
6 – To make a splash in the art/creative world
Mascots are created to make brands more money, but they can also be impressive and iconic creative creations. A successful mascot or character can help a brand to make a mark on history and be remembered forever in the pantheon of advertising. Earlier this year a collection of mascots was even the focus of an exhibition in San Francisco. Mascots like Tony the Tiger and Ronald McDonald make their mark on culture and impact on society in a bigger way than many people either realise or care to admit. Sure – some can be annoying, but it’s a huge challenge to create one which resonates powerfully with customers worldwide. A world without mascots and characters would be mundane, strange, and a very different place.