What is a Company Mascot?
In a brand context, a company mascot is defined as a fictional spokesperson for a company or product. They can be anything from anthropomorphized animals or objects to cartoon depictions of humans—or even actors pretending to be actual people.
You see mascots associated with brands all the time, both for big, international names and for small, local brands. But are mascots all they’re cracked up to be? Should you draw up a mascot yourself and jump on the already-laden bandwagon? Before you do, you need to know a little more about what mascots actually are.
What are the Benefits of Using a Mascot?
A colorful, distinctive mascot design is an excellent way to grab a viewer’s attention, especially if they have a unique personality or motif. Some mascots have distinctive voices and can provide a video or radio ad with engaging narration and/or playful banter.
Distinctive mascots can be so associated with a particular brand or product that they are recognized on their own, without the company logo or name present anywhere in the material. These mascot’s names (and mascots need to be named) can become brand names in and of themselves.
If done right, a mascot can have excellent mass appeal and open up your brand to multiple markets. More customers will be able to relate to the company mascot, allowing for wider and deeper engagement for your marketing message. This results in better brand name recall and, if the mascot is popular enough, will open up licensing opportunities to put the mascot on products.
So if mascots are so effective, why isn’t everyone doing it? Why aren’t more businesses with company mascots penetrating the public consciousness?
Can A Mascot Go Too Far?
Like any other marketing tool, mascots are highly effective when done right, but can be disastrous for your business and brand if done wrong.
Cheesy. You’ve seen these mascot examples before. They try to be “hip”, “cool”, or some other quality that supposedly appeals to their target audience, but instead panders to stereotypes and comes off as patronizing. It alienates the customer instead of drawing them in.
Half the reason that mascots get this bad is probably that they are conceptualized by executives who are too far removed from their customers. Because they are unfamiliar with their customers’ values, interests, and cultural influences, they work off of mistaken assumptions and prejudices that detract from the mascot’s appeal.
Brand Disconnect. In the quest to develop a likable, relatable company mascot that will capture the customers’ imaginations, company executives sometimes lose sight of what a mascot is supposed to do: represent the brand. The mascot will then only have the thinnest association with the company and brand, and therefore lose its effectiveness as a corporate spokesperson.
Through proper market research and testing, a proper brand advisor or creative team will be able to walk the narrow bridge that crosses this uncanny valley, resulting in a mascot that is accurate to the brand but doesn’t devolve into a mockery of itself.
3 Questions to Ask When Building a Mascot
Building a cartoon character logo is not a simple decision to make. In addition to deciding whether or not your business needs a mascot in the first place, you have to determine what manner of mascot would be the most effective for your business. If you make the wrong choice, your mascot could wind up the laughing stock of your industry—or worse, make you look ridiculous to your customers.
Simply calling a designer and commissioning a mascot isn’t going to produce good results. You have to have a clear idea of who you want the mascot to be and what you want them to accomplish.
Ask yourself these questions:
What Type of a Company Mascot Do I Want?
Mascots come in all shapes, sizes, and forms, each with their own brand of appeal for different kinds of customers. Here are a few types for you to consider:
- Animals. Animals have a broad appeal, from cute to cool. Some companies use actual animals in their ads, while others use hand-drawn or computer-generated animals that talk and act like people.
- Objects. When brands use objects as mascots, they are usually humanized by adding arms, legs, and faces to the image. Often, these objects are the same product that the brand is advertising.
- Animated graphics. This mascot is neither an object nor an animal, but rather an animated version of a recognizable image—perhaps the company logo.
- Fictional person. This one uses actors to play the role of a fictional person that endorses a brand. Note that this is different from an actual celebrity sponsor/spokesperson, who is under contract by the company.
What Personality Should It Have?
Making a mascot means giving that mascot a personality. This doesn’t mean they have to talk—mascots can express personality just by the way they dress, look, and act. Even a mascot’s facial expression can speak volumes—an inquiring eyebrow, and smug smile, or a welcoming grin.
The question then becomes, “does this mascot act the way we want our spokesperson to act?” Do you want the mascot to be a comforting presence, showing people that he is there to help them? Or do you want them to be funny and approachable?
Who Should It Appeal To?
Your target audience will respond most to mascots that share similar values and appearances. A bank mascot, for example, can be immaculately dressed and possess an air of friendly confidence, in order to say, “Yes, our staff are just as professionally competent as me.” Children will most likely respond to mascots that are just as young and playful as they – in other words cartoon characters. A colorful costume or appearance will express this well.
However, if you want a more general appeal to draw in a wide range of customers, you have to make your mascot more accessible to the general population. This means tweaking his personality or appearance or perhaps even coming up with a second mascot to cover the additional demographics.