The Role of the Modern Mascot in Branding
For many decades, mascots have been an important part of the interaction between brands and their customers. From Procter & Gamble’s Mr. Clean, Pillsbury’s Poppin’ Fresh to Michelin’s Michelin Man, mascots are the faces that give your brand a unique personality, allowing you to stand out in the crowded market.
They might be themed on personified objects, humanoid animals, or even humans, as long as they reflect your brand image and are relatable to your target audience. A mascot’s principal function is to aid in the development and reinforcement of brand identification. It’s also an effective strategy to maintain top-of-mind awareness.
When consumers encounter your mascot on a regular basis on your custom packaging and all your creative branding assets, they are more likely to remember your brand. When it’s time to check out, your product will be the first thing on their minds. That is, you will become their official go-to brand.
What is the Purpose of a Brand Mascot?
Brand owners have used mascots to personalize their services and products for decades in attempts to make a connection with the consumers and establish customer loyalty. Even today, it is just as important a marketing tool. Looking at the figures, it’s easy to understand why.
According to a white paper published by Moving Picture Company, the creative force behind The Lion King and numerous commercial characters, business mascots may boost profits and emotional connection with consumers by up to 41%. Also according to the same study, advertising without a mascot had just a 29.7% chance of increasing market share.
It’s no surprise that fresh mascots appear on a regular basis, or that existing ones are given modern modifications to appeal to new audiences. Johnnie Walker is a good example; he’s so well-known as a 2D graphic that he’s been turned into a 3D figure for a TV commercial. Diageo, the company that owns the brand, even released a female version named Jane Walker in 2018 in a show of female empowerment.
If the arguments listed above aren’t enough to persuade you to obtain a brand mascot, consider the following:
Developing an Emotional Connection With Your Target Customer
Humans are wired to make emotional connections. Our social and environmental settings are some of the factors that influence us and we feel a lot better when we have strong ties with others around us. It is, in fact, essential to our survival. It is therefore unsurprising that brand owners and designers seek to connect with that sensibility.
The old saying “a picture is worth a thousand words” applies here as well. Any graphic cue can help with memory recall, but anthropomorphizing your brand increases the likelihood that people will connect with it.
Staying Ahead of the Curve
Mascots can evolve industries as well as establish new and better interactions with customers. Since its establishment 20 years ago, the Australian winery Yellow Tail has continued to expand. The Aboriginal-inspired art style of the New South Wales trademark is distinctly Australian.
The label’s distinctive Yellow Tail Rock Wallaby mascot expresses the strong New World history that has become so famous across the world. It was the ideal mascot for Yellow Tail’s founders, the Casella family. Rather than competing with Italian or French wines, the strategy portrays it as accessible and enjoyable, aimed at a new wine customer.
We want our creative ideas to stretch and evolve alongside their businesses, so as brand developers, we’re always looking at the bigger picture. Duckhorn from Napa Valley is a clear illustration of this. The wine company’s Pintail duck is an instantly identifiable symbol, which has allowed it to launch the Decoy brand, which uses a duck as a man-made item. The recognition of this bird, in whatever shape it appears, is instantaneous.
Evolving With the Times
Mascots may need to be updated when products and services, as well as their target audiences, change. However, you must not toss away the baby with the bathwater—a redesign should not be so drastic that you destroy hard-won brand equity and recognition. The iconic cockerel of port brand Cockburn illustrates how you can put modern vitality and curiosity into a brand mascot to appeal to a new audience and convey a fresh story. The new “Tails of the Unexpected” sub-brand has a link to its beloved predecessor, but with a novelty that matches with current positioning.
When the social and political environment evolves and imbalances need to be addressed, evolution is sometimes required.
Meanwhile, not everyone was enthusiastic about the Jane Walker limited-edition whiskey. It was released as “another mark of the brand’s dedication to development,” as well as an expression of support for feministic causes, with $1 from each bottle sold going to appropriate charity. Many others, however, thought it was condescending “gender-washing.”
Outside of the beverage industry, Uncle Ben’s has been chastised for promoting racial stereotypes. In 2007, the brand attempted to redefine Ben as the company’s chairman of the board of directors, but the damage had already been done. This year, the brand will be renamed Ben’s Original, and new packaging will be introduced.