One social media marketing strategy that has grown in popularity is the use of fictional brand mascots to personify brands. But are brand mascots effective tools on social media, and should your brand have one? Studies show that brand mascots do resonate with customers, inspiring them to engage in conversation and share content. Mascots such as Flo from Progressive, the GEICO Gecko, and Tony the Tiger have brought significant social media success to their parent brands. By taking time to develop a mascot that truly personifies your brand, you too can cultivate a social media presence that reaches your core audience.
How Effective Are Brand Mascots?
First and foremost, how effective are brand mascots on social media? According to one study, they’re more effective than celebrities. Synthesio monitored social media buzz generated by both celebrity spokespeople and brand mascots and found that brand mascots, on average, contributed to a much higher percentage of that brand’s buzz on social media. While most celebrity endorsers only contributed to 3.19% or less of a brand’s buzz (with the exception of GoDaddy’s Danica Patrick), mascot endorsers ranked much higher. The Pillsbury Doughboy contributed to 22.14% of their brand buzz, the Aflac Duck scored 11.82%, Flo from Progressive captured 6.85%, and the GEICO Gecko generated 6.15%.
In addition to creating more buzz, brand mascots contribute to higher rates of Facebook shares. Another study found that for most brands, using a brand mascot boosts shareability significantly when compared to non-character visual content. For example, the Charmin Bears contributed to 585% more shares, Tony the Tiger led to 279% more shares, the Keebler Elves led to 203% more shares, and Mr. Clean led to 182% more shares. In the study, only two brands were associated with negative shareability: Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome and the Jolly Green Giant. Photos of delectable food and exotic travel destinations performed better than mascots for these two brands.
Why Do Brand Mascots Work?
The studies above show that brand mascots are effective tools for social media engagement, but why do they resonate so well with consumers? First, consumers prefer to interact on social media with a cute, entertaining character rather than a nameless, faceless PR person or corporate executive. While characters encourage casual conversation, executives simply do not.
Brand mascots are also successful on social media because they create a softer way to sell your products. While blatant self-promotion is typically a turn off on, consumers don’t react in the same way when this self-promotion comes from a mascot. Mascots provide a more effective voice through which to promote your brand while engaging customers, rather than doing one or the other.
Lessons From 14 Mascots On Social Media
How are brands using mascots on social media? Here are 14 examples to learn from.
Flo from Progressive
According to a SimplyMeasured study on brand mascots, Flo from Progressive is the top brand mascot on Facebook. Not only does she have over 4 million fans, but she also offers the best content based on the popularity of her posts (measured in terms of comments, likes, and shares). Flo averages a stellar 2,655 likes per post. Why do consumers love Flo? She’s perky, friendly, and makes insurance fun.
The GEICO Gecko
Another beloved brand mascot is, of course, the GEICO Gecko. According to the same study above, the GEICO Gecko is the most widely discussed mascot online. Fans love this little guy because they can relate to him – his social media presence comes off as completely authentic, despite the fact that he’s a lizard with a Twitter account.
Captain Morgan reaches his audience with drink recipes, partying tips, and other booze-related content. SimpleMeasured’s study finds that this mascot is a top engager on Facebook – while he doesn’t have as many fans as Flo, he ranks more highly in terms of engagement with the fans that he does have.
The beloved mascot of Planters, Mr. Peanut is an example of a mascot with staying power – according to his Facebook page, he’s been around since 1916, and he’s still going strong with close to 700,000 likes. Mr. Peanut succeeds on social media because he’s a character with a complete personality. His bio contains silly, random facts – apparently Mr. Peanut is an excellent racquetball player who enjoys squirrel pranking and reading nature essays to beautiful women.
The Aflac Duck
The Aflac Duck stands out on Facebook as one of the most active mascots, sharing a wide range of content and actively communicating with his audience. An example of a brand mascot who transitioned from TV to social media, the Aflac Duck has gained over 450,000 likes and posts about everything from golf to fashion week.
Mr. Clean is another mascot who has only gotten better with age. While he was introduced in 1957, Mr. Clean now runs a very successful Twitter account, posting hilarious quips about cleaning up as well as fun photos of himself at the Oscars, Olympics, and more.
The Energizer Bunny
Who doesn’t want to follow an adorable bunny on Twitter? The Energizer Bunny engages its audience with photos, inspirational quotes, and of course, promotional content for Energizer contests and sales.
The M&Ms Characters
Combined, the M&Ms characters have amassed over 10 million fans on Facebook. The female M&Ms, Ms. Brown and Ms. Green, stand out with posts that are full of attitude. Ms. Green boasts 54,000 followers on Twitter, while Ms. Brown has her own station on Pandora.
Cap’n Crunch shows how a brand mascot can take on multiple social media channels. Not only does Cap’n Crunch have a Facebook and Twitter, but he also hosts “The Cap’n Crunch Show” on YouTube, with new episodes every other week.
The StubHub Ticket Oak Tree
Unfortunately, the StubHub Ticket Oak Tree is an example of a brand mascot gone wrong. A new character on the scene, the Ticket Oak Tree was poorly received by many Twitter users. One user tweeted, “I’m utterly creeped out by the stub hub Ticket Oak Tree #terrifying.”
The Jolly Green Giant
While the study discussed above on brand mascots and shareability found that images of delicious food performed better than the Jolly Green Giant on Facebook, the Jolly Green Giant still succeeds as a historic brand mascot. He promotes Green Giant by tweeting about the benefits of frozen vegetables and retweeting photos of customers using their products.
Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome
Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome is another mascot who scored low in terms of Facebook shares, but has still created quite the Twitter following. He has over 44,000 followers and posts clever tweets, photos of himself on vacation, and contests to win free trips.
Tony the Tiger
A classic brand mascot, Tony the Tiger promotes brand buzz and Facebook shares, according to the studies cited above. He tweets about everything from his love for Frosted Flakes to traffic in L.A. and engages with fans through retweets and replies.
While Allstate’s Mayhem is not quite as popular as Progressive’s Flo, he still has 58,000 followers on Twitter and makes insurance much more interesting. Unlike Flo, Mayhem takes on a much more negative persona – rather than being a brand mascot, he’s more like a brand villain, which seems to work in Allstate’s favor.
Tips for Developing Your Brand Mascot
Are you considering a mascot to represent your brand on social media? Follow these tips to create the personified version of your brand.
- Determine if a mascot is right for you. The first step in developing your brand mascot is to determine whether or not your audience will be responsive to a character. For example, characters work best when your brand already has a mascot, targets children, or has a fun, playful voice. Brand mascots tend to not work as well when your brand is more serious or sad.
- Create a map of your brand as a person. Now that you have decided to develop a character for your brand, consider your brand as a person. Create a map that describes the personified version of your brand, including personality traits, qualities, values, likes, and dislikes.
- Choose the right name & visual representation. The name and visual representation of your character are critical to its success. Be sure to make choices that not only relate to your brand, but also will resonate with your audience. For example, we saw above how a “creepy” image created a negative response to StubHub’s Ticket Oak Tree, while cute and playful characters like the GEICO Gecko and Flo from Progressive are well received.
- Provide your character with a personality. A great personality is another critical component of your brand mascot. A mascot doesn’t necessarily have to be likeable (ex. Allstate’s Mayhem), but it does have to be interesting. Try adding some funny quirks to make your character memorable.
- Remember to stay in character. Last but not least, once you have created a character, remember to stay in character. Ensuring that your brand mascot stays in character can be difficult, especially if you have multiple people running social media accounts. However, failing to remain in character can be fatal to the success of your mascot on social media.
Does your brand use a mascot on social media? How has your brand mascot increased online engagement?