Friday, February 26, 2010

Get into characters.

Think about some of the most memorable marketing campaigns. Jack in the Box, Geico, Frosted Flakes, Joe Camel, RCA, Keebler, Kool-Aid, KFC, Energizer… we could keep going and going. This incomplete list spans industries, decades and audiences, yet each one of these campaigns has something in common: a character. And, silly as they may have been, those characters made products with no real differentiation in their market into a household name.

We would love to have seen the pitch for the Geico cavemen. And the one for the Energizer bunny. It probably went something like this:

“You see, we’ll have a pink bunny toy with a drum that just won’t stop because Energizer batteries last so long.”

Dead silence.

And we don’t blame that board room full of execs for being nervous about representing their line of batteries with a ridiculous toy. But more than that, we applaud them for giving it a shot and recognizing the potential that idea had. In fact, if that bunny were still around today, we bet it would have its own Twitter account and Facebook fan page, its own website and a project whereby consumers spot the bunny and submit their photos of it to the company’s Flickr account.

Marketing “mascots” are ripe for social media and perfect for today’s consumer, someone that wants to connect with their purchases and has a strong understanding of comedic irony. We’re not saying EVERY brand should have a mascot, but having one does provide ample opportunity for creating top-of-mind awareness for your brand without forcing a message down your audience’s throat. It would have been way less effective if Energizer had commercials showing dead batteries being replaced with new ones. Batteries are boring – they NEEDED a bunny.

If you’re considering a mascot for your brand or someone else’s keep the following tips in mind.

1. Create a likeable character. Your character doesn’t need to be perfect or embody every positive attribute you see in your company. It should be an overall good person/animal/alien/robot/whatever with a few flaws or struggles that add to its personality. Maybe the character isn’t the brightest or maybe it can’t run very fast or maybe it has a weakness for ice cream. In some way, your consumer must identify with it.

2. Develop the character as much as possible. Like we said, give it a Facebook page and a Twitter account… give it life! If you want your audience to connect, you have to make sure you’re reaching them in a multitude of ways. This is especially important for your company because your mascot can reach people in ways your company can’t.

3. Develop it some more! We created our Dr. Paid character for PFS Group, and he has an entire back story – and his own (fake) non-profit organization for cat obesity. We know that he loves bagels and also accounts receivables. Jack from Jack in the Box also has an extensive personality, and his triumphs and failures have been documented through clever advertising and social media. Jack essentially has nothing to do with burgers, but he is a major reason people love that restaurant.

4. Give it time. Don’t create a character and then get rid of it. Like people in real life, your customer will have to get to know your mascot, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t fall in love right away. If you actively exploit your mascot and promote him, the fans will come… and so will the revenue!

So, speaking of mascots, Black Sheep has one too. It’s… you guessed it… a black sheep. But this poor sheep doesn’t have a name! That’s where you come in. Help us name our sheep and in return you get a $100 Apple gift card AND a reserved place on our Black Sheep website (launching soon!). 

UPDATE: Some of our lovely followers pointed out that the Energizer Bunny does indeed have a Facebook page and Twitter account. Our point is again, proven. :) Thanks for the hint! 


Derek ybarra said...

Bella Black the black sheep!
Bella Black!

Luis Gonzalez said...


Anonymous said...

Nice article there Aimee! Enjoyed the read. And I say your black sheep should be named "Juju" ... kinda fun, unpredictable and mysterious. =D -Keith

Anonymous said...

just FYI - the Energizer Bunny has an official Facebook fan page and Twitter account. bunny

Shear Creativity said...

Here's just another example. Characters in fashion!