Mascots can make companies go viral, but you need to know how and where to use them. Here you’ll get lots of ideas on how to use a brand character and examples of how big brands do it.
What is a mascot
Mascots, also called brand characters, serve as ambassadors of a company or a product. They can be humans, animals or objects. Mascots have been used for a long time, but the Internet world and social media gave them a new life. Now brand characters are more popular than ever before.
But the fact that you have countless possibilities to use your mascot online could be confusing. That’s why we are going to dive deep in 12 different ways you can your character and see how other brands nailed it.
12 Ways to use a mascot
Some of these ideas are simple to execute, while others require a lot of work. That’s why I’ve divided them into three levels:
- Level 1: The Apprentice – Basic ideas on how to use your mascot on your website and to promote your products
- Level 2: The Wizard – Advanced creative ideas for bringing in high-quality visual content
- Level 3: The Archmage – The master level of how to transform your character into an ambassador of your company
Keep in mind that if you put your mascot everywhere people might get exhausted seeing it, even get irritated. So choose those ideas that are the best fit for your business needs.
Level 1. Basic use of brand character
1. Use the Character as a Part of Your Logo
While it’s not necessary to make your character a part of your logo, it’s a good idea to have an image on your website of your character interacting with your logo. This will help the audience to associate the mascot with your brand easier and faster.
We made the first step to connect the character with your brand. Now it’s time to connect your products/services with it.
2. Use your character to promote your products/services
The main reason why companies use brand characters is to promote their products/services and differentiate them from the competition.
Depending on the type of product you have, there are several different strategies you can use:
- Packaging: If you are selling a physical product you can use your character as part of the packaging design.
- Product/service pages on your website: If your business has a website you can use your character on the service pages and even let your character tell the story of your brand and products.
3. Use it on Print marketing materials
If you are a local business, you probably make some print marketing materials. Again, you can use your character as part of the design, and even use it as a spokesperson. We all know that people like stories, but what people like even more is when there is someone telling them the story!
Whilst on the topic of spokespersons, you can delegate more responsibilities to your mascot and let him/her speak with your audience.
4. Use the character to speak with your audience
We mentioned that you can let your character speak about your products. What you can also do is to let it communicate with the audience on your website. This is most suitable for companies providing a digital product/service.
A great example is MailChimp.
If you deal with email marketing you’ve probably met Frederick von Chimpenheimer IV (Freddie for short) – the MailChimp mascot. MailChimp was a pioneer in the friendly way they communicate with the users and the playful details in the interaction with the software.
For instance, whenever you hit the send button of a new email-campaign you get a high-five from Freddie.
You can use your mascot for user interaction when the users do something that makes them happy while using your software/website.
Keep in mind that the interaction with the user should happen in positive situations. Do not use it when the user is frustrated! Do you remember Clippy, the Microsoft’s Office Assistant? If you don’t that’s because Clippy doesn’t exist anymore. If you do… then, I suspect your memories are not quite positive.
The tragic story of Clippy
Clippy was the mascot of the Office Assistant launched in Windows 97. Clippy’s job was to assist you while you’re writing. For example, typing an address followed by “Dear” would cause the Assistant to appear with the message: It looks like you’re writing a letter. Would you like help?
Once in a blue moon, Clippy would actually offer you useful advice, but most of the time Clippy would just stare at you and dance at the corner of your screen. The feature provoked a strongly negative response and eventually, Clippy was retired.
There are numerous hypotheses why people hated Clippy so much. However, there’s one obvious factor that has led to the death of Clippy.
The assistant provided content that people don’t even want. And even worse, Clippy was interrupting you to tell you that he can “help”. It might be useful advice if you are writing your first letter. But to get bombarded with “IT LOOKS LIKE YOU ARE WRITING A LETTER…” every time you write “Dear”… it can drive you up the wall.
So don’t put your mascot on potentially annoying places. The mascot should be a nice feature. So save it for the end, when the user finishes the task, just like MailChimp do it.
Level 2. Get creative with your brand character
It’s time for more interesting ideas on how to integrate your character in your visual content. Let’s begin with one pretty smart idea, and yet easy to execute.
5. Make even the most boring pages on your website go viral
The tech company ReadMe is a great example of how to properly implement a mascot in your website.
As the founder tells the story of their mascot, they knew that their niche (code documentation) is not one of the sexiest in the industry, that’s why they’ve decided to create their mascot Owlbert to make the company look more attractive and personal.
In the beginning, they’ve put their mascot only on the login page. The owl was placed on the top of the login box, and when you hover on the password field the mascot would hide his eyes.
They were amazed at what happened next. Before launching the new login page, the website had around 1000 visits daily. And 48 hours after launching the new login page, they hit 77 652 visits, on the most boring and non-informative page that has ever existed on a website – the login page.
Since then Readme.io upgraded the look of Owlbert. Here’s how their sign-up page looks now.
Another interesting thing that ReadMe created is a cute animation. When you scroll down the owl’s head is moving. Human eyes automatically detect movement, so it’s a great way to attract attention to your call-to-action. However, you should use motion frugally and wisely, just like ReadMe has done it – just minimal movement and exactly where it should be.
Another thing that they nailed down in this call-to-action is the eyes of Owlbert. The eyes of the mascot are directed towards the text and the sign-up button. Why is this important? It’s related to another interesting feature of the visual attention – the brain detects faces and where the eyes are directed to. This phenomenon is called Social Attention and it’s immensely powerful.
If you want to learn more about visual attention tricks and how to use them in your visual content check out my post Use The Science of Attention to Boost Your Visual Content.
6. Use it in your blog post images
There’s one place that your character can unleash their potential and bring traffic to your website – your blog.
There are many websites using custom illustrations on their blogs. Still, there are only a few that use a mascot in the illustrations. So now it’s the moment to do it and differentiate yourself from the competition!
You don’t have a brand character yet? Check out my post Brand Mascots: Choose The Right Type Of Character For Your Brand. There you’ll find a simple decision chart on how to choose the right type of character for you, as well as many examples from big companies and how they’ve chosen their characters.
BuzzSumo.com is a great example of how to integrate a mascot into your blog post illustrations. Open their blog page and you instantly get the feeling of high-quality content!
What’s the next thing you do when you publish a blog post? You post it on social media, right? So let’s talk about the social media presence of your mascot.
7. Use it in social media
Social media is The place to make your brand character popular. Posting the illustrations you have from your blog posts is the easiest thing to do. You can, however, do more than that.
Create social media visuals with your character. Use highly shareable visuals such as informative infographics or funny and entertaining illustrations and comics.
You probably know Geico’s mascot Gecko, whose job is to help people save money on insurance. Well, Gecko is active on social media and he regularly shares his thoughts with the fans. Clever, funny and shareable, right?
Let’s stop with the social media here, because we are going to dig deeper in there later. Now let’s move on to the next idea on how to use your mascot.
8. Limited edition designs
Remember we talked about print marketing materials at the beginning? Now we are going a bit further.
One of the first things that most companies do is making t-shirts with the company’s logo. But you have a mascot. And this gives you the freedom to create all kinds of eye-catchy t-shirts with your character that will make your fans go crazy.
What makes it even more exciting is that you can create limited edition designs for specific events or milestones that you achieved in your company. People love limited edition design promo products. Let me give you an example.
This year for the content marketing conference CMA Live18 hosted by The Content Marketing Acadamy in the UK, they launched limited edition t-shirts with artwork of their logo designed especially for the event. Let me tell you, people were racing to take their t-shirts from the reception.
And this is just a variation of the logo. Now imagine what would be to have t-shirts with limited edition high-quality illustrations.
A great example is the limited edition designs promoting the open-source robotics software ROS (Robot Operating System). Every new release (distribution) comes with a different kind of turtle, which is used to create limited edition artwork and distribute it as merchandise products like t-shirts and bags. Take a look at some of their designs.
Level 3. Make the mascot an ambassador of your brand
We’ve come to the highest level of mascot development. From this point, your character transforms into an ambassador of your business. However, to let your character speak for your business, he/she needs to be more than design. Your mascot needs a personality.
9. Name your mascot
Since this moment the name of the character hasn’t been of a great importance. But now it’s more than necessary to choose a name. In fact, choosing a distinct name could be a great SEO booster.
The mascot’s name and SEO
The name of your character will give you the opportunity to rank high easily on Google for keywords that include the name of your character. Pick an unusual name that will help you to rank higher. However, the name should also be catchy, so that people can recall it easily.
A great example is Aleksandr Orlov, the mascot of comparethemarket.com, a comparison engine website. The mascot has a distinct name which is coherent with his story as a Russian aristocrat. Aleksandr has managed to steal the hearts of the audience with his rich and intriguing personality.
This leads us to the next step – developing the personality of your mascot.
10. Build the personality of your mascot
To be a real ambassador of your company, your character needs a distinctive personality. Think of it as building a character for a book or a movie. If you don’t want it to look superficial and fake, you need to dig deeper.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you in the process of building the personality of your character.
- What’s specific about your character?
- What does he/she like/don’t like?
- What’s his/her job in your company?
- What does the mascot do in their spare time?
These questions are just a starting point. You can continue in any direction you like. As the author of Harry Potter, J. K. Rowling, explains in the interview for BBC in 2001 – you should be able to answer every possible question about your character.
11. Create social media accounts of your mascot
If your character is going to communicate with your audience, they have to look real. Social media gives you the perfect solution.
You can create a fictional life of your character. Posting an image of your mascot drinking beer after work, or sharing insights about the childhood of your mascot like Mr. Clean do. It’s funny, it’s entertaining, it’s shareable and it connects with your audience on a different level!
12. Build a whole fictional world of your mascot
Just like building a character for a book or movie, you need to develop a world for your character to live in. Of course, it could be a version of the real world, but you need to have something specific in it if you want to make it intriguing for your audience.
Let’s get back to Alexandr Orlov from comparethemarket.com. He lives in Meerkovo, a small town near Moscow. Another element that makes the story more believable and rich is that all his friends have jobs and well-defined personalities. And Aleksandr himself is presented as the CEO of the company.
The development of a character is a long process. If you make your character unique and look for creative ways to use it your audience will love it for sure. As Aleksandr says, SIMPLES!
Share in the comments which ideas you plan to execute with your mascot or if you come up with others that I’ve missed here!