Brand characters can boost your content marketing to a whole new level. But it’s crucial to choose the right one and implement it correctly in your content strategy.
We’ll dive deep into the consumer’s mind and explore some of the best examples of mascots and their use in content marketing.
You’ll learn how to choose the right character for your business.
What is a brand Mascot and what to use it for?
Brand characters, also called mascots, serve as ambassadors of a company, product or a service. Thanks to the Internet and social media, mascots are gaining great popularity today. They can make your brand and content more attractive and engaging.
Fictional brand characters are like celebrities, they can boost your marketing and influence people. Interestingly, some even argue that fictional characters could be more influential than real-life celebrities.
You can use your character on your website, as part of the illustrations on your blog and social media posts, in video content, or any print marketing materials.
For some companies, it’s easy to choose the right one. Let’s say you are selling cat food. It would be odd to choose a camel for a mascot, right? But for other ones like tech companies the possibilities are endless.
So how do we choose the right one?
As a scientist, I always rely on facts and research. So let’s dive into the consumer’s mind and explore marketing and psychology research and find how to choose the best character for your company.
How to Choose The Right Mascot
To get an idea of what’s the best mascot for your business check out the decision tree I’ve created for you.
Let’s see each of the three categories in detail.
Human characters are the most widely used mascots. An analysis of over 1150 mascots reveals that 21% of all mascots are human characters and it’s the largest category.
Human mascots can be based on a fictional character or a real person.
1. Real Person Character
Real person mascots are a good choice when your goal is to promote yourself. For instance, if you are a freelancer or a public speaker.
Examples: The well-known mascot of KFC represents the founder, Colonel Sanders. Captain Morgan is also based on a real person – Sir Henry Morgan, a 17th-century privateer of the Caribbean.
The superhero is a good fit if you want to highlight a powerful feature of your product or service. For instance, Mr. Clean has the power to clean the floor fast and effectively, and Captain Aquafresh fights cavities.
Be careful, though, people are highly sensitive to superheroes. The superpower of the hero should be clear and easy to communicate with your audience.
3. Objects With A Human Body
Characters made of objects could be very eye-catchy. They are a good choice for companies selling a specific product with a distinct shape. These companies have two options:
- Transform the object itself as a mascot and make it alive, like the M&M’s Spokescandies
- Use the product as a building element to create a living creature, like The Michelin Man (called Bibendum)
Curious fact: Have you ever wondered why Bibendum is made of white tires? Why isn’t he black? Well, actually, tires weren’t colored black until 1912, they were grey-white.
The second-largest category of mascots is the animal characters. There are several kinds of reasons why you would want to use an animal mascot.
Animal Mascots and the Science behind them
Animals are versatile and playful, but there is an interesting psychological explanation for their popularity.
It all begins with what’s known as anthropomorphism. People have a tendency to attribute human traits to animals, plants, even non-living objects.
Why do we do this? The simple explanation is that we need to understand the world around us. We need to decipher the animals’ behavior and the only way to do this is by comparing the animals’ behavior to the only one we know – our own behavior.
Due to that interesting psychological phenomenon, we seem to enjoy seeing animals that look and behave more like us. And so we feel them closer to us.
In fact, we don’t just enjoy them, we even worship them. There are very strong symbolic and religious roots. Every society has its animal symbols, the coat of arms of many countries include animals and many religious and mythological systems are based on half-animal-half-human gods.
So animals are an important part of our life. That’s why we form archetypes for them, in other words, we create a list of things that we know for this animal kind in our brain. For instance, we know that dogs are playful, friendly and loyal; cats are graceful and independent. And every time you see a dog or a cat these qualities pop up automatically in your brain.
These archetypes are very powerful and subconsciously influence the way we see animals.
Animal Archetypes in Brand Mascots
Some companies use the archetype of an animal to promote the values of the company or features of their product.
Let’s take as an example the iconic car brand Jaguar. What associations come to your mind – power, speed, grace, beauty? This is exactly what Jaguar want you to see in their cars, but instead of saying it, they use a jaguar as a mascot and leave people to make the associations themselves.
Here are two more examples of animal archetypes used in mascots.
- Tony the Tiger is the mascot of the breakfast cereal Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes
Why a tiger? Tigers are vital, energetic, and strong exactly as you should feel after you finish your cereal.
- Duracell’s pink rabbit.
For some companies, choosing the character is a very straightforward process since there is a direct relation between the animal and their product.
Direct relationship mascot – product
If your product/service has a direct relation to an animal, then this is the simplest choice for you. Here are two examples of such characters:
- The Laughing Cow is a mascot of cheese products made of cow milk
- The mischievous Felix cat – the mascot of the cat food products Felix owned by Purina
There is a third category of animal mascots that are based on pure creativity. There’s no relationship between the product and the animal, nor any scientific reasons behind these characters. And yet they could be one of the most intriguing ones.
No visible relation between the brand and the mascot
Some characters don’t have a direct link, nor is their archetype transferrable to the brand. And yet, they are one of the most fascinating and intriguing characters!
Be warned though, they are also the trickiest type. Often it’s hard to promote such characters since the audience won’t get their meaning straight away. To make them work you should put more effort into the mascot development.
Let’s see some examples.
One of the greatest examples is Aleksandr Orlov, the mascot of comparethemeerkat.com, a comparison engine website.
A meerkat doesn’t seem to have any relation to a website for product comparison. The reason behind this unusual choice is the fact the words “market” and “meerkat” sound and look similar. That’s how a website for comparing the market became Compare The Meerkat.
How did they manage to promote their mascot so well? By developing an entire fictional meerkat universe – Aleksandr has a rich and intriguing personality, he has a lot of friends, they live in a town called Meerkovo and each character has a job and a well-defined personality. In fact, Aleksandr is presented as the founder and CEO of the company.
The gecko mascot of the insurance company Geico doesn’t have a direct relationship with the services of the company. The reason for this choice is that Geico noticed that people misspell their brand writing GECKO instead of GEICO and so decided to use it in their marketing campaigns. That’s how the gecko Geico was born. In their campaigns, they rely on humor to promote their character.
Objects as Characters
I’ve already mentioned object-based characters, but they are so interesting that they deserve a separate category.
We can divide this category into two subcategories.
Objects as a building material
In the first case, the objects are simply used to build the body of the mascot, like the Michelin Man. The object is only a building material and it doesn’t bring any traits with it.
In the second case, the object is brought to life itself like the M&M’s Spokescandies and Poppin’ Fresh, also known as the Pillsbury Doughboy.
In this way, we create a character that becomes human-like while keeping the features and traits of the object. This gives you the freedom to mix both human and object traits. Now simply put the mascot in different human situations and make them funny and memorable.
A great example is the M&M’s commercial “Eating in bed”. In the video, a horrified woman is caught “cheating” by her husband. However, as it turns out, she is in the bed with the M&M’s Red character who doesn’t even suspect that he is going to be eaten.
Milestones as Mascots
In the general case, the character is the product (like M&M’s). However, the object could also be related to a story behind your brand.
A great example is Luxo Jr., the lamp playing with a ball at the beginning of every Pixar’s movie.
The lamp is clearly not an object we associate with filmmaking. So why did they choose Luxo Jr.?
The lamp was the star in one of their very first projects – the short movie Luxo Jr. It was nominated for the Academy Award in 1987 and it’s one of the first triumphs of Pixar. So their first milestone became their mascot.
Other Important Factors when choosing a mascot
There are some additional factors that influence mascot choice and the trends in mascot design. Here are some of them.
The closer the better
People show sympathy for characters that are closer to them. Research shows that the most used types of mascots are things that are closer to us. This is why the most widely used characters are humans (21%). The next most popular ones are birds (19%) and domestic animals (16%). Followed by large (12%) and small (9%) wild animals. Finally, mythical and aquatic animals and insects.
Another important factor is geolocation. This one is somewhat related to the previous factor.
So when it comes to local businesses, location is a very important factor. If your business is located in Australia, then you better seriously consider a kangaroo mascot. However, if you are located in Alaska, a kangaroo would be a really odd choice.
The mascot trends could be influenced by movies and various other trends. For instance, in the 1960s and 1970s aliens were extremely popular due to the Star Wars mania, and dinosaurs were popular in the 1990s thanks to the Jurassic Park movies.
Technology, robots, and aliens
There is something that drastically changed the past 10 years – the role of technology in our lives. We live with a phone constantly in our hands. So technology gave birth to a new trend – anthropomorphized phones, laptops, etc.
More importantly, the advancements in artificial intelligence and robotics and the recent achievements in space exploration have led to a new trend and it’s continuously growing – robots and aliens. These characters are widely used even outside the technology and software fields.
Brand characters can boost your content marketing to a whole new level, but choosing the right one and implementing it right in your content strategy could be tricky. We’ve explored the different types of brand characters and some of the main factors to consider when you are choosing a mascot for your brand.
I hope that by now you have a better idea of what type of character you need. The only step left is to get one and make it part of your marketing strategy.