In the age of all-access, DVRs, social media and on-demand entertainment, this market should be an advertiser’s dream. Instead, it’s becoming more difficult than ever for companies to find a way to connect with consumers. With the power to pick and choose our entertainment comes the ability to pick and choose our advertisements and that leaves some companies scrambling to keep up.
A mascot or spokesperson used to be a brand’s ambassador – a relatable, often cuddly, way to make a lasting impression that helped build a relationship between companies and consumers. But in our fast-paced, high-definition world, it seems the lure of characters like Mr. Peanut and the Pillsbury Doughboy is waning.
Savvy companies have tried to stay ahead of the curve, creating Facebook pages and Twitter accounts for their mascots. A great idea, but more challenging than it might at first appear. Many of these characters were created to project an image, not a thought process. Now Mr. Clean has to come up with witty and effective quips in 140 characters or less, instead of simply being the strong, silent type.
But it’s not just old standbys that are caught in the technological backlash. Some companies are launching new mascots, and the challenge is how to cut through all the noise and make a splash. Frontier Communications is one of the most recent companies to introduce a new spokesman: Frank the Buffalo. Frank is arguably made in the image of the Aflac Duck or the Geico Gecko, but as a latecomer to the mascot game, he seems to be having a hard time getting his footing.
Admittedly, the witty representatives of Aflac and Geico still seem to be going strong, even if their appeal is just a holdover from the initial generation of consumers to connect with them. But Frank is hardly making a ripple in the ever-widening pond of communications company choices. And even though Frontier has tried to go viral rather than rely on traditional commercials that many viewers fast-forward or skip all together with on-demand viewing, they still don’t seem to be hitting the mark.
The only mascots that seem to be holding on are those already well-established like those sassy M&Ms running into Santa every Christmas and tricking one another into making friends with chocolate lovers; but even a long-standing reputation isn’t enough to keep some mascots from fading into the ether. When is the last time you remember seeing the unstoppable Energizer Bunny? And the adorable antics of Snuggle come off more cloying than cute these days – and that’s after a makeover.
Other well-known mascots have also undergone transformations. Take the Kool-aid Man. He’s been slimmed down and toned down with a new physique and less exuberant voice. While some of us remember the huge splash the Kool-aid Man made on our childhoods, this streamlined version barely garners a passing nod.
Perhaps the heyday of brand mascots has passed. After all, product placement seems to be a more viable way to reach the modern consumer. Slipping in product mentions or making a brand part of the fabric of a show or movie is more likely to reach the masses than an obvious, brash cartoon or animal hawking the latest and greatest.
Are you sad to see brand mascots fade into the background or do you think they can make a comeback?