In my first post in this Business Growth series, I wrote about the importance of creating your business brand and logo. Now I’m taking it a step further: growing your business into an empire, using a brand mascot…

What’s the first thing that pops into your head when I mention the cereal, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes? If the words, “They’re Greeeeeeat!” didn’t enter your mind, there’s a possibility that:

a) You don’t have kids.

b) You didn’t grow up around Battle Creek, Michigan.

c) You’ve basically been living under a rock.

So option c might be a bit harsh, but my point is that Kellogg’s did such a fantastic job branding and marketing their cereals, they have become experts at creating successful brand mascots — and Tony the Tiger is just one of their many examples.

brand mascot tony_the_tiger

Why Does My Business Need a Brand Mascot?

There is one easy answer to that question: To build an emotional connection with your customers. Plain and simple. According to a Journal of Marketing Management study, which explores the effects mascots have on consumers,

“Brand mascots reflect a deeply rooted human tendency to understand the world through anthropomorphic objects.”

In other words… we want to put human characteristics on non-human items, in order to feel a connection to them. Deep Stuff. The study also goes on to state that brand mascots serve as a bridge between “producers” and “consumers”, giving the customers a sense of trust and friendliness toward the corporations. Tony the Tiger, Aunt Jemima, the Pillsbury Doughboy and Betty Crocker give friendly faces to faceless corporations.

Consumers need this face of trust and friendliness. And as a business, brand mascots are the way to give it to them.

brand mascots pillsburry_doughboy

The Potential of Brand Mascots to Influence Customers

To give you an idea of how introducing a brand mascot can bring significant results, a Case Study was performed at the University of Liverpool on Brand Anthropomorphism. One particular Case Study revolved around Mr. Peanut, the beloved brand mascot of Planters Peanuts. Planters was founded in 1896 by Italian immigrant, Amedeo Obici. Starting out as most immigrants did back then, he had no money and began his business with a simple peanut roaster and a horse-drawn cart.

As his modest company began to grow, so did Obici’s belief in advertising. While other processors thought national advertising was a waste of money, he believed that name and brand recognition would be critical for his business. He did something drastic, and held a contest with a $5 prize for the best mascot design. Long story short – Mr. Peanut was born in 1917. And because Obici was so marketing savvy, he not only created a brand mascot, but also created coloring books, advertising posters, and appeared in multiple newspapers to further his reach.

And his brand mascot paid off! Thanks to Mr. Peanut, the company grew from $1 million to $7 million in 5 years! And we’re talking back in 1917, where $7 million was a lot of money.

Fast forward to today and Mr. Peanut has become an iconic brand mascot, even boasting over 600,000 followers on his personal Facebook page and tweeting away over on his Twitter account. He’s gained a bit of sophistication with his top hat and cane, along with the voice of the one and only, Robert Downey Jr. Today, Planters is a part of the Kraft Foods family, with annual revenues of more than $18 billion. Not too shabby for a nut!

brand mascot mr_peanut_twitter


Brand Mascots Help Universities Build Relationships

But businesses aren’t the only ones who realize the power of a brand mascot. Anyone, and I do mean anyone, can tell you who their school mascot is – and most likely all the mascots in their school division. Universities have taken the idea of relationship marketing and are using it to build their university’s brand. And a HUGE role in that brand is given to the mascot. In the study, Building a University Brand: The Long-Term Impact of Shared Experiences, the nature of relationships amoung students and their long-term loyalty is explored. According to the results of the Journal of Marketing for Higher Eduction,

“The importance of certain types of university activities on student relationships and, therefore, on loyalty to their alma mater correlate heavily to their intentions to support the university in the future.”

Writing from personal experience, I can say it’s true. I feel an immense pride when I see my dear old, Sparky, hamming it up on TV during an Arizona State University game.

Brand Mascots & Social Media: New BFFs

Enter the Social Media Age. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Google Plus. The popularity of social media in the marketing realm has provided a huge channel for brand mascots to come alive. Social media has made icons and mascots a much more interactive component of a brand’s story. With Facebook boasting over 845 million users worldwide, and Twitter over 500 million users, social media networks present a large population for consumer interaction. This gives brand mascots the ability to “communicate” to consumers through their respective social networking sites.

Carol Phillips, president of consulting group Brand Amplitude, says this about brand mascots and social media:

“Mascots are “the gift that keeps on giving”. They never get in trouble with the law. They don’t up their fees. You can use them for a long, long time. Today, social media is giving marketers a whole new playground to test and nurture mascots. I think the web is going to [bring] a heyday for creating new characters and stories,”

We’ve already seen how popular Mr. Peanut has become on Social Media, and he’s not the only one…

The M & M’s have their own official Twitter account, and can be seen having a ball with their tweets:

brand mascot m&ms

And let’s not forget Chester Cheetah! With a whopping 59K Twitter followers, Chester gets lots of social media love from his fans, boosting his product wherever he goes:

brand mascot chester_cheetah

Get Creative with Your Brand Mascot

Now you’ve seen some incredible examples and amazing stories. There’s no doubt that incorporating a brand mascot – when done the right way – can bring tremendous success to your business. But you must be dedicated to making it work. It will take hard work and investing money into your new character, but you’ve seen how it can pay off. Take these 4 tips and roll with it:

  1. Create your brand mascot around the demographics of your customer
  2. Brainstorm, Brainstorm, Brainstorm.
  3. Invest in the design and creation of your mascot.
  4. Have fun!

Remember: your brand mascot is an extension of your business. He/she should represent your business in every aspect, down to the color and size. Don’t be afraid to explore the boundries of your business’ creativity, and just start creating. Your masterpiece is waiting to come to life!

This post was originally posted on the FaxNgo blog.

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