By James Buchanan
In past blogs, we’ve discussed the importance of creating an emotional connection between your product and your customer via marketing. This is key to success for several reasons. Emotions are produced by the same section of the brain responsible for memory and decision-making. So advertising that stimulates the emotions also stimulates the memory and is more likely to inspire the consumer to make a buying decision than presenting advertising based solely on reason.
Mascots have been helping marketers make this connection almost from the very beginning of advertising campaigns. So we asked our new intern, James Patrick Buchanan, to come up with some tips on why you might consider using a mascot of your own. Here are his observations, illustrated by examples to demonstrate just how effective using a mascot can be:
1. A mascot can attract attention and make your product more likeable.
My University of Minnesota business administration professor used an example from the early days of television to demonstrate just how mascots can influence sales. He described how Hamm’s Brewery spent much of their advertising budget on animated television commercials featuring the good-natured Hamm’s Beer Bear and his catchy advertising jingle.
The Hamm’s Beer Bear gave customers the feeling that they were being entertained by an adorable bear instead of being subjected to a pushy sales pitch. And when the popular advertisements were discontinued to reduce the company’s substantial advertising budget, beer sales declined noticeably. Apparently, the Hamm’s Beer board of directors forgot what Walt Disney said about adults, “Adults are only kids grown up.” Beer sales didn’t rebound until new animated advertisements were created and then aired. As the professor pointed out, mascots not only get people’s attention, they can make the products they represent more desirable, too.
2. Using a mascot eliminates problems caused by misbehaving spokespeople.
Cartoon mascot characters have numerous advantages over static logos or human spokespersons, even when these humans are popular celebrities. While someone like Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Bill Cosby may make testimonial ads memorable and interesting, all of them proved to be liabilities when their misbehavior reflected badly on the products they were representing.
On the other hand, mascots such as Alka-Seltzer’s “Speedy” or Procter & Gamble’s “Mr. Clean” never challenge the status quo. In fact, product mascots like these may be better known and often engender more trust among consumers than political leaders do. Furthermore, in cartoon or illustrated form, mascots are immortal. So even if they’re discontinued for generations, they can be brought back again years later, looking good as new.
3. Ensure your brand is always politically correct by using a mascot.
Animal and/or fantasy mascots such as the Geico gecko never have any problems with ethnic diversity issues. Speaking to the common needs of consumers and the universality of the products they represent, they always say just the right thing at the right time. Moreover, even if they aren’t human – or real – mascots can display an emotional range worthy of an Oscar winning performer. (Certainly the Geico Gecko has on any number of occasions.)
4. Mascots are an ideal way to reflect the heritage of your brand.
For example, the billy goat mascot of the United States Naval Academy, “Bill the Goat,” is a reminder of the navy’s history. For centuries, naval ships sailed with livestock like billy goats, on every voyage, providing sailors with fresh food and animal companionship.
5. Licensing a popular local mascot can build stronger connections with the community.
The connection a community has with their local school’s mascot has inspired many local businesses to license that school’s mascot to use for their own businesses. For example, about twenty years ago, Whistle Stop Pizza in Duluth, Minnesota changed its name to the Bulldog Pizza and Grill, licensing the mascot of nearby University of Minnesota to do so. This marketing strategy was truly inspired. Since the restaurant was located in the same neighborhood as the university, it made their location as well as their brand, more memorable.
6. Mascots can show your pride in your location.
Here’s an example. The Great Northern Railroad serves towns and communities in the Rocky Mountains, the natural habitat of the Rocky Mountain goat. So it was only to be expected that the railroad would adopt this goat as its mascot. Naming it Rocky, they created a simple circular logo with the goat taking the part of the engineer on the train. This logo was as easy to reproduce for large formats such as outdoor advertising as it was in smaller formats such as post cards, buttons and lapel pins.
7. Mascots can be used across different media.
“Fat Bottomed Earl,” the official mascot for Auto Value Parts Stores, not only is a memorable and amusing mascot in print and online, he’s a favorite at events, too. A two-dimensional figure in print and online, he’s also frequently on display as a custom made, advertising balloon at special store openings and sales.
8. Mascots can be used as giveaways or become product lines all their own.
Mascots can be produced as promotional items as well as represented in two-dimensional advertising. For example, Big Boy Restaurants used the mascot on their signage to create salt and pepper shakers for every table in their restaurants. They even published a series of Big Boy comic books from 1956 to 1976.
Not only can company mascot promotional items be used to increase brand awareness as free give-a-ways, they can also be sold for profit as products on their own. Produced as coin banks, bobble head figures or other types of souvenirs, mascots can be sold in retail venues online or in brick and mortar stores.
Today, with rapid prototyping, even a small business can use their mascot as the inspiration for promotional items with a modest investment of time and money. These can be given as gifts at trade shows or sold online and in retail stores. Once in a buyer’s home they are a constant reminder of the company’s brand and services.
9. Mascots can embody and inspire your brand personality.
Of course, Crux has had our own mascot for years – Mojo. He not only reflects our company’s commitment to quality and service but our sense of humor, too. The mascot, Mojo, was based on Michele Allen’s magnificent bulldog and graces many of our company’s communications pieces. Although he passed on this year, Mojo’s charm, affectionate nature and refusal to settle for anything but the best continues to inspire us and attract new clients every day.
Call us to discuss creating a mascot of your own.
If you already have an idea, we can help you decide on what art style best suits your target market. For example, a mascot created as a Japanese-style animation might be a suitable for elementary school children, while a classic American illustration style might be more effective if you’re approaching senior citizens. We’ll collaborate with you in creating a memorable name for your mascot, help you define its personality and decide if it should speak on camera or just perform to narration. We can even write and compose an original jingle for you. Sound interesting? Why not give us a call to find out more. We’d love to hear from you.
—– ABOUT THE AUTHOR —-
James Patrick Buchanan
James has graduated with degrees in communication and journalism from the University of Minnesota, Duluth. He is passionate about improving his skills in writing, photography and page design while contributing to and learning from a talented crew of highly skilled people for a diverse range of clients.