Cartoon Brand Mascots - The World's Most Powerful Marketing Tool Cartoon characters have been used in advertising for more than a hundred years, and they won't be going away any time soon. They are quite possibly the most powerful and versatile marketing tools ever invented. Don't scoff - think about it. How hard would it be to sell a virtual commodity like bread dough if Pillsbury didn't have the Doughboy? Do you think the Minnesota Canning Company would be anywhere as successful today without the Jolly Green Giant? Sure, M&Ms "melt in your mouth and not in your hands" is one of the great slogans of all times, but would the candy be such a big part of our culture if it weren't for the endearing charms and misadventures of the M&M characters? Or would they sit on the crowded candy rack of QuickTrip stores, lost in a jumble of colorful packages? Cartoon characters, or brand mascots as I prefer to call them, do the impossible. In very mature markets, under incredible competitive pressures, where it is hard to tell one product or service from another, they enable you to differentiate. They give you a way to be unique in markets when it's hard to do it with features, benefits, service or price. How hard is it to differentiate in bread dough, vegetables or candy? For that matter, what about service industries like insurance (AFLAC duck, Snoopy, Gieco Gecko)? When all else fails, marketers turn to brand mascots because they work. Face it, what could be harder to sell than insurance? So what is it about brand mascots that make them so powerful? Personality is one reason. People tend to do business with entities they trust and LIKE. In today's hustle-bustle world, there's not as much time for a salesperson to develop a relationship with a customer for the sake of a sale. People are on the move and won't sit still long enough, but they can still catch a glance at a familiar smiling face that takes them to a happy place if only for a nanosecond. For that brief instant, they can experience the comfort and gratitude they feel from doing business with a trusted friend - the familiar brand mascot. Eye contact also has a surprising affect on people. If someone is staring at you from across the room, you'll sense it, and soon turn around and look. Brand mascots make that kind of eye contact. They are a smiling, friendly face looking straight at you. It's against all your human nature to ignore it. Smiles also have a magical affect on people. Try this sometime. If you are feeling blue, force yourself smile for 30 seconds. See if it doesn't lift your spirits. Next time you walk by a perfect stranger, stair them straight in the face and give them your best smile. I guarantee, you'll get one back 99% of the time. It's amazing. I learned how well this worked quite a few years ago when a friend asked me to dress up like Santa Claus for his photo booth at a shopping mall. I loved it! I soon discovered everyone who looked at me lit up with a smile as soon as I said "ho ho ho, Merry Christmas" and waved a friendly wave. It was irresistible! I decide to take it for a test drive. I actually walked out on the street and hunted down the grumpiest people I could find just to see if I could eek a smile out of them. It never failed. A genuine smile and acknowledgment from a familiar face gets the job done every time. The ability to talk is a tremendous asset as well. What other marketing tool does that? A brand mascot can tell your company, product or service's story. It can demonstrate and educate. It can be the voice of your company and reflect your culture. It can articulate in terms your target audience identifies with. It can be charming, endearing and likable. Even if your brand mascot is not animated, it can still talk with a cartoon bubble. And what the cartoon character says is generally the most read part of any advertisement. Try this test. Take one of your old ads and plop a cartoon character into it, and put the headline inside a cartoon bubble. Show both versions around your office and ask which one is most likely to get read. People tend to tune out ads, but still want to hear what a cartoon character has to say. The ironic aspect of cartoon brand mascots is that, although they've been a staple of the advertising industry for more than 100 years, a phrase or term to describe them has never taken root in the marketing lexicon. I use "brand mascot," but other use "advertising icon" or simply "cartoon character." I suppose "spokesperson" might work but "spokescharacter" or "spokesmascot" would be more accurate. Right in my hometown of Kansas City, there is the Advertising Icon museum that is dedicated to these little fellows, but I can't get on board with the term "icon" because I think it's too static. It evokes the image of a simplified graphic like the universal stickmen used in the sign industry. I see these cartoon characters as being much more rich and three-dimensional. I can't put the Lucky Charm Leprechaun beside a stick man and call them cousins. But alas, I'm allowing my affection for this life form to seep into my message. While brand mascots are very versatile, they are not for every business; and there are do's and don't's you want to be aware of when using one. Learn more about cartoon brand mascots at Dave Thompson's Web site at http://toons4biz.com Articles on these subjects are on the author's Web site. The Do's and Don'ts of Using a Cartoon Character to Promote Your Business Business: Advertising • Published: April 6, 2009 Cartoon characters can be powerful marketing tools. Just look at the Jolly Green Giant, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the M&M characters, Tony the Tiger or the Keebler Elves. However, there are some rules that apply to using a cartoon brand mascot effectively. Use properly, a cartoon brand mascot can make an indelible impression and help you build a powerful brand. It can make your product or service highly recognized and perhaps more importantly - liked by potential customers. It can help you stand out in highly competitive market places, add value, command a higher price and hence - more profitable. Like any marketing tactic though, poor execution can have detrimental affects. A poorly executed cartoon brand mascot can undermine quality and value and tarnish your brand. Here are some do's and don't if you are considering using a cartoon brand mascot to promote your company, product or service: Don't draw or design it yourself, unless you are a professional cartoonist or graphic designer. Your cartoon brand mascot is the cornerstone for your marketing and brand building program. You'll live with it for a long, long time - it is well worth it to get a professional involved. Don't have a friend or relative draw or design it for you. Just because someone is artistically inclined or has a good eye for design, doesn't put them in the same category as a professional cartoonist. Cartooning is a very specialized field - a talent that is honed over many years of trial, error and experimentation. You may have an idea of what you want, but executing it on paper is harder than most people think. It takes a professional. Don't have an art student draw it for you. Just because someone is artistically inclined doesn't make them a good cartoonist, and it doesn't mean they understand the production aspects required of a brand mascot to make it functional across all marketing venues. Don't use free clipart for your brand mascot. Think about it - do you want everyone else in the world using the same cartoon character you are? If you go the clipart route to save money, instead of having a custom character designed for you, be sure to go to one of the clipart developers that specialize in brand mascots so the character you choose is not in the public domain where anyone can use it for free. A good site for royalty free brand mascots is Toons4biz.com. Don't just use one version of your cartoon character. Mix it up and have him doing a variety of things to keep your brand building campaign fresh, yet consistent. Don't use a cartoon brand mascot to promote a luxury product or highly expensive service. Do have a professional cartoonist/graphic designer develop it for you. There are many fine nuances that go into a well-designed cartoon brand mascot. What looks good on the sketchpad may not look good when it's reduced down to fit on a business card. A cartoon brand mascot may need to look good on a computer screen, embroidered on a shirt, etched on a pen, printed on a business card or blown up on a billboard. A good designer knows how to use the proper line weights; colors and shading that reproduce and hold their integrity over a wide array of applications. Do make sure your cartoon advertising character is executed in a variety of poses so you can use him in a wide array of applications. Do make sure your cartoon advertising character reflects positive attributes: friendly, helpful, intelligent, likable and smart. Do use a brand mascot to differentiate your product, service or company in highly competitive markets that are price sensitive. Do use your brand mascot to build relationships with customers. Do use your brand mascot to educate, entertain and enlighten customers. Do make prominent use of your brand mascot. Do take the time to write a personality profile articulating the characteristics of your cartoon brand mascot. Write his life story. Tell your customers all about him. Flesh out his personality, and be sure he behaves consistently with who he/she is. Do give your cartoon character a challenge. Sonny goes cuckoo for Coco Puffs. The Trix Rabbit never gets to eat Trix. The Giecko cavemen never get the respect they want. What these challenges do is make the character more endearing. People empathize with them, and that forms a bond. How important is having an emotional bond with your customers? Brand Management: Do’s and Don’ts for Brand Mascots http://www.toons4biz.com/category-s/317.htm DO: 1. Do have your mascot designed by a professional. A bad character can do just as much damage as a good character can do good. It's all a reflection on your brand. Just because your nephew got A's in art class doesn't mean he understands the nuances of character development. 2. Do give your character a name and let people know what it is. 3. Do have your character make eye contact with people. 4. Do make your character smile a lot. 5. Do make your character exude enthusiasm and a positive outlook. 6. Do let your character speak up, whether it's in cartoon dialog bubbles or in live animation. Giving your character a chance to speak gives people a chance to know him and like him better. 7. Do make your character say and do important things. His dialog will always be the first thing people read so use the opportunity to lead people where you want them to go, or to deliver key messages that support your brand strategy or positioning. 8. Do be consistent. If you write dialog for him that incorporates Southern slang, use it every time. 9. Do know what traits you want him to have so that you can be consistent with him. Is he a lovable, bumbler or a sharp-as-a-tack solution finder? Does he get over-the-top excited about things, or is he a more laid back, easy-going type of guy? Is he humble or confident? 10. Do consider your customer base when choosing your character's traits. This doesn't necessarily mean MATCH your character's traits to your customers. Sometimes people like to see negative examples that can make them feel better about themselves. For example, for a financial adviser, a cartoon character that constantly makes poor financial decisions and has to be helped by the adviser might work well. The character could constantly be seen in situations where the advisor just saved him from making yet another mistake. 11. Do give your character some type of flaw, phobia or on-going challenge. Hollywood calls it making a character more sympathetic. The Silly Rabbit is always struggling to get his hands on Trix. Lucky the Leprechaun is always running away from people trying to get his Lucky Charms. 12. Do keep them smiling. Note the Silly Rabbit and Lucky Leprechaun always keep smiling in the face of adversity. 13. Do limit the scope of subject matters for your mascot. If he's developed for promoting product A, don't let him talk about product B just because he's become so popular. Keep him focused. Keep him on a short leash. 14. Do let him go home with customers. Whether it's on t-shirts, tattoos, frizbees or golf balls, your mascot does some of his best work on premium items. 15. Do give him a trait that he will be recognized for such as: thoughtful, curious, intelligent, resourceful, likeable, sweet, clumsy, sassy. DON'T: 1. Don't let him share center stage with other characters. One of the reasons cartoon mascots stand out so well is their uniqueness. Don't let them be surrounded by similar objects - other cartoons. 2. Don't ever make your mascot do or say anything mean or spiteful. 3. Don't let just anyone write dialog for your character. That person needs to have a firm grasp of your character's personality profile and your brand strategy, and know how to weave them together into effective dialog. 4. Don't let him speak about subjects outside his area of expertise. 5. Don't let him show up just anywhere. Typically cartoon mascots are great sales and training presenters. They find good homes in sales promotions, packaging, signage, merchandising, training manuals, newsletters and advertisements. They are not necessarily the best choice for annual reports and communications with stockholders and institutional investors. You might see the Pillsbury Doughboy take a small role in the annual report, but I doubt that you'd find him filling the front cover like a Cosmopolitan supermodel. 6. Don't let an amateur perform surgery on him. Don't let anyone combine your character with clipart by cutting and pasting. It will look amateurish and diminish the brand. 7. Don't let your mascot show anger. It's OK for them to get frustrated as long as they do it with a smile. 8. Don't orphan your mascot. In other words, don't just through him out on the street and expect him to grow up to be a wild success without your wisdom and guidance. He is an extension of your business - your child. He needs to be introduced properly - so talk about him, brag about him, tell his story, and give him a reason for living. He needs to be taught how to talk - so spend time thinking about how he thinks: what he might say, and how he might say it. 9. Don't lose sight of his purpose. It's tempting to just have fun with a mascot sometimes, but remember they have a job to do. Their message should always serve a purpose such as: leading readers into the copy; pointing out a benefit; reinforcing a cultural quality; entertaining; building relationships; provoking curiosity, etc. Be able to justify what you have him doing in each application. 10. Don't let him be sarcastic. It might be entertaining in some venues, but it's not a likeable trait. Brand Management: Is Loyalty Really Dead? One of the most critical challenges any business faces is how to differentiate itself from the competition. This is where brand mascots excel! Even if you have a one-of-a-kind offering, super- outstanding value, or a location-to-die-for, a mascot can be the catalyst that sends your business into hyperdrive. Lets strip away all advantages you might have, and put you on a level playing field with your competition. Pretend you have a gismo to sell, and there are 10 other guys who have the exact same gismo to sell to the same group of people. The only difference is that you have a brand mascot as your assistant. He talks to your customers and has your sales pitch down to a fine art. He's a super salesman. Relentless. In fact, there are clones of him on every street corner. Everywhere you look, he's smoozing customers. The other guys don't have anything like it. Who's going to stand out? Who's going to get remembered? Who looks like the leader? Who's going to be able to command a higher price? Who is going to have loyal customers crawling out of the woodwork? Now consider what a brand mascot can do working WITH the advantages you have in play. The combination could be incredible! Branding Strategies: How to Differentiate? One of the most critical challenges any business faces is how to differentiate itself from the competition. This is where brand mascots excel! Even if you have a one-of-a-kind offering, super- outstanding value, or a location-to-die-for, a mascot can be the catalyst that sends your business into hyperdrive. Lets strip away all advantages you might have, and put you on a level playing field with your competition. Pretend you have a gismo to sell, and there are 10 other guys who have the exact same gismo to sell to the same group of people. The only difference is that you have a brand mascot as your assistant. He talks to your customers and has your sales pitch down to a fine art. He's a super salesman. Relentless. In fact, there are clones of him on every street corner. Everywhere you look, he's smoozing customers. The other guys don't have anything like it. Who's going to stand out? Who's going to get remembered? Who looks like the leader? Who's going to be able to command a higher price? Who is going to have loyal customers crawling out of the woodwork? Now consider what a brand mascot can do working WITH the advantages you have in play. The combination could be incredible! Branding Strategies: The Big Misunderstanding Many people have brand mascots all wrong - thinking they are just for selling silly cheap stuff to kids. Consider that MetLife (Snoopy), Aflac (duck) and Geico (lizard) each have highly successful brand campaigns built around mascots. Then ask yourself: Who buys insurance? Mature adults. How cheap is insurance? It's not. And how silly is insurance? Pretty serious stuff. There are just a couple professions that aren't suitable for a brand mascot: lawyers and funeral directors. If you're not part of that fun crowd, go for it! Brand Management: Target Markets The type of customer you're trying to reach is also important. Sure, kids are a no-brainer, but we're all part of the cartoon generation and people of all age groups are fans. Why do you think the Simpsons has become one of televisions longest running series (more than 20 years). You might think certain professions might be "above" cartoons but look how "The New Yorker" reaches the elite of the financial world, and is renown for its cartoon strip. We (Toons4biz®) developed a custom character for a multi-billion dollar investment firm. Many huge pharmaceutical companies use cartoon characters (Nasonex's bee and Mucinex's flem guy) to reach physicians and consumers. The Magic Toon4biz® characters are designed with a winning formula. Eye contact is a big eye-catcher. That's why our characters have big, friendly eyes. Think about it. You can sense it when someone is staring at you from a cross the room. Big eyes staring directly at you command your attention. And when you look someone straight into their eyes, it's like looking through a window into their soul. It's how you can tell if they are telling you the truth or not; whether they can be trusted or not. It's all in the eyes. It's human nature - that's why we put so much emphasis on our characters' eyes. No matter what else is going on, a friendly smile can brighten your day. That's why all of our characters have big, bright, friendly smiles. Again, this is human nature. Psychologist council patients struggling with depression to force a smile on their face for just 60 seconds because of the magical affect it has on their attitude and outlook. It works. Try it sometime when you're feeling down. It's the magic of smiling; and our smiling cartoon mascots can cast a warm-and-fuzzy spell of happiness on your customers. Copyright 2007 Thompson Advertising, Inc. Reproduction of this article is only permitted if Toons4biz® is credited and our Web site address is published along with it. "www.toons4biz.com" Logo Or Brand Mascot - Which is Better? Business: Branding • Published: April 2, 2008 There's some debate about whether a brand mascot is more effective than a logo. Some argue that a logo stands the text of time whereas mascots get old and people tire of them. Rubbish! The M&M characters have been around since black and white TV and they are still some of the most recognized and well-liked characters in today's pop culture. The Pillsbury Doughboy has now appeared in more than 600 commercials and if Pillsbury ever put him out to pasture, their sales would tank. McDonalds knows the same about Ronald McDonald. Why do you think Michelin brought back the Michelin Man? Without him, they wouldn't stand out in the highly competitive tire market. He makes them unique and even likable. A logo can't make you likeable. It can't look you in the eye, wink, giggle and give you a warm-and-fuzzy. It can't walk, talk and demonstrate an attribute you want associated with your brand. A logo just sits there. It's static. Yes, there are great logos. The Nike Swoosh comes to mind, but it doesn't entertain you. You don't point to it and tell a friend, "Hey, watch this - it's cool!" Tiger Woods might make the commercial worth watching, but the logo itself doesn't do the heavy lifting. A brand mascot can. Think of how the Trix rabbit does the heavy lifting for Trix. In every commercial, he's in an entertaining quest to get his hands on Trix. His "must have" attitude portrays the cereal as highly desireable. The Lucky Charms Leprechaun does virtually the same thing. Every commercial is an exciting chase scene where kids want to catch him for his Lucky Charms that are "magically delicious." No logo could portray "delicious" as effectively as a cartoon brand mascot. Think of how Sonny goes cuckoo for Coco Puffs. So if brand mascots are so effective, why don't more companies build brands around them. Several reasons. First, a logo is easier. That's not to say that logo development should be taken lightly. Done right, it can be an incredibly involved process. However, development of a brand mascot is even more complex. Unfortunately, the average hack can scrawl out a rough vision of what they think would be a good logo. Drawing a cartoon character requires more training and talent. I don't want to insult my logo designer friends, but I've spent more than 20 years designing both logos and cartoon characters, and the later is simply more involved. You have eyes, facial expressions, posture, props, clothing and a litany of other issues to contend with that are not involved with logo design. Plus you have a personality profile to develop. A good cartoon brand mascot acts consistently. They have a sense of who they are. They approach things from a certain perspective - hopefully one that is built around an attribute that is critical to your brand positioning. Ronald McDonald is, above all else - fun. The other aspect that prevents wider use of brand mascots is the fact that they are not appropriate for all types of products or services. I doubt you'll ever see a cartoon brand mascot pitching fine jewelry, luxury cars, legal services or a funeral home. So what industries make the best homes for brand mascots? Brand mascots work very well in markets that are highly competitive, full of mature products or services where price pressures are high, and it's difficult to differentiate one competitor from the other. That's why you see Snoopy, the AFLAC duck and the Gieco Gecko all fighting it out in the insurance industry. It's why you see so many cartoon brand mascots in the cereal isle and cookies shelves of your grocery store. It's why the Taco Bell Chihuahua stepped into the ring with the Burger King King and our old friend Ronald McDonald. The basic rule of thumb for whether or not you ought to use a brand mascot centers around competitive pressures, pricing pressures and the ability to differentiate. If you are in a war zone, you're enemies have basically the same weapons you do, and margins are getting squeezed, you may want to recruit a brand mascot to lead your charge. Cartoon Characters Inject Personality Into Your Promotions Business: Branding • Published: April 2, 2008 Using Cartoon Characters to Promote Business Don't laugh! Those silly little characters can mean big business. Consider the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Jolly Green Giant, the M&Ms characters, the Aflac duck and the Geico Gecko. In fact, a cartoon brand mascot is the single most powerful marketing tool many companies can deploy. Most people, when starting a business, or introducing a new product brand, center their efforts around the logo, trying to build a brand around a simple graphic symbol. Maybe they prop it up with a snazzy slogan, but it's still a static symbol. It doesn't make eye contact (very important) and it can't talk and explain and educate anyone about anything. It doesn't wink and smile, giggle or dance, or do anything to be endearing. It doesn't create any "warm-and-fuzzies" and therefore, doesn't build relationships that translate into brand loyalty. Despite being viewed as the cornerstone for most brands, the effectiveness of logos still pales in comparison to a well-crafted cartoon brand mascot. So why don't more companies use brand mascots? Quite simply it's been overlooked in traditional marketing circles. Name one college that teaches a class in developing brand mascots, let alone one that grants a degree in it. How many ad agencies do you know that specializes in it? It's just fallen through the cracks, and no one has focused on it as a specialty... until now. Next time you look through a newspaper, ask yourself how many of the ads would do a better job of getting your attention if they featured a cartoon character staring you straight in the face, with a big bright smile, telling you "blah, blah, blah" (whatever the headline is)." A good friend of mine pointed out that you could go through the entire automotive section, and look at pages and pages of dealership ads and hardly be able to tell them apart from each other. "But," he pointed out, "one with a cartoon character would completely stand out and be very memorable." Learn more about cartoon brand mascots at Dave Cartoon Characters in Advertising - Is a Cartoon Brand Mascot Right For Your Business? Business: Branding • Published: April 2, 2008 What businesses are appropriate for cartoon brand mascots? Here's the rule of thumb for when and when not to use a cartoon brand mascot. Keep in mind, ALL rules are meant to be broken. Cartoon brand mascots work best when the product or service you are promoting is: 1. Hard to differentiate 2. Price sensitive 3. A non-luxury item 4. In the mature life cycle stage 5. Involves education/training 6. Boring/irritating/embarrassing 7. A virtual commodity 8. Sold in a highly competitive market. A cartoon brand mascot may not be the best choice for: 1. Upscale luxury items associated with prestige (jewelry, champagne, furs) 2. Non-price sensitive items, very unique, hyper innovative 3. Services dealing with extremely serious matters (lawyers and funeral directors) Selling anything is an exercise in story telling. The products that have super compelling, headline-grabbing stories, don't need a mascot to get attention. In fact, might even detract from the real story. For the 99 percent of other businesses that have to fight through the average of 5,000 advertising messages people are exposed to on a daily basis, a cartoon mascot is the one thing that can help them stand out and separate them from the competition. "Oh that's right! You're the one that has that cute little..." Here is a list of industries that cartoon mascots can be highly effective in: Accounting, Advertising, Agriculture, Apparel, Appliances, Automotive, Baking, Banking, Beverages, Biology, Boating, Child Care, Communications, Computer Technology, Construction, Consulting, Counseling, Dentistry, Education,, Electronics, Energy, Engineering, Entertainment, Foodservice, Forestry, Furniture, Government, Health Care, Hospitality, Housing, Industrial Applications, Janitorial, Lending, Manufacturing, Marketing, Medical, Mining, Parts, Pharmaceutical, Photography, Plastics, Plumbing, Publishing, Real Estate, Recreation, Repair, Restaurants, Retail, Sanitation, Security, Sports, Textiles, Toys, Training, Transportation, Utilities, and Wholesale. A mascot is a effective way where you can reinforce your brand and put a new life into your business with a view to gain encouraging prospects and opportunities. With a mascot, you can give a character to your business and exhibit the feature of your product and service in a more impressive manner. Whether you want to promote events, services or any product, there is no better way than using mascot. Today's market place is filled with several established and competitive firms and if you want to make your business memorable in minds of your audience, having a visual image of your service is really a must. In this case, mascot is really a efficient marketing tool where you could utilize it as a ambassador to represent your product and service and make a long lasting impact. The usability of mascot is not just limited to captivating your audience, it also helps to give a personality to your business. Are you a business enterprise keen on giving a character to your business with a mascot? Then come, give a character to your business with mascot design services of LogoLabs, which is specially created to meet your marketing needs. A mascot designed with well effective planing and strategy definitely satisfies the purpose of your marketing goal and helps to give your business the deserved attention. At LogoLabs, we are well aware of the significance of mascot in marketing, thus we always stress on providing lively, visually engaging and custom mascot design that compliments the business of a firm in a effective way. We don't just design attractive mascots, but we take a initiative to give a character relevant to the business so that it is well associated to their product and service. Read more at http://www.articlealley.com/article_924109_4.html?ktrack=kcplink Having a attractive mascot design is good, but it is also essential to see that it meets your purpose in a effective way. At LogoLabs, we have a team of versatile designers who are well experienced and competent to design eye catching, custom and unique mascot design for various industrial sectors. Just mention your specifications and we will design a character matching your industry and marketing objective. Give a personality to your business by choosing our mascot design package which offers you 2 high impact design concepts to choose for your mascot along with receiving 3 revisions from our professional designers. We will deliver you mascot design in the necessary file formats so that you can conveniently place it on print and web. Turn your mascot into a good will ambassador of your service to convey your brand message to your potential customers. Place your order for mascot design by filling our order form or call us at 703.893.6383 so that we provide you a lively and appealing mascot design. Get your mascot designed now! Read more at http://www.articlealley.com/article.html Are Mascots Outdated? Are Ronald, Jack, Wendy, and the King right for marketing in the 21st century? http://www.qsrmagazine.com/reports/are-mascots-outdated More than a decade into the 21st century, it is safe to say we are living in a brave new world. Television, perhaps thepièce de résistance of last century, has given way to computers and, in turn, desktop computers and laptops may soon give way to tablets and smartphones. This rush of technological innovation has had a profound impact on the way restaurants do business. With so many powerful tools like Facebook and Twitter, it is only natural that restaurants have updated their marketing strategies by pouring money into social networking and cell phone promotions. But despite leveraging every new thing at their disposal, restaurants have stuck to at least one stalwart of 20th century branding: the mascot. Just don‟t call it a relic. In fact, don‟t call it a mascot—some brands consider it an insult. “Mascot? Jack? He might take offense to that!” This was the reply of Jack in the Box spokesman Brian Luscomb when contacted for an interview regarding mascots. Luscomb was being light-hearted, but the chain takes Jack very seriously, his ping-pong-ball head, party hat, and hand-drawn facial features notwithstanding. In fact, even in the context of a brass-tacks interview, Luscomb referred to Jack as the company‟s founder and revealed that he—Jack—has a reserved parking space in front of the Jack in the Box headquarters in San Diego. “It‟s for his car,” Luscomb says matter-of-factly. If it seems as if Luscomb and Jack in the Box in general are taking things a bit far, it‟s important to note that Jack was integral in helping Jack in the Box survive its infamous E. coli disaster of 1993, when tainted meat killed four children and sickened hundreds of other customers. Reeling, Jack in the Box started the “Jack is Back” campaign in 1995, giving a voice and the distinction of founder to a character that had previously been confined to company packaging and the drive-thru menu. “We were definitely reinventing ourselves, and he was a key piece of that,” says CMO Terri Graham. It would be impossible to figure out the extent to which the “Jack is Back” campaign helped Jack in the Box weather the E. coli disaster, but the fact that the brand called upon Jack in a moment of crisis suggests how powerful a marketing tool restaurant mascots have been in the industry. Sixteen years and a slew of technological breakthroughs after the “Jack is Back” campaign, the question is whether mascots still have a place in a 21st century marketing strategy. The answer, Graham says, is “absolutely.” “What you‟re trying to do is emotionally connect with guests,” she says. “With brand perception, there is a rational side and an emotional side. The rational side focuses on the service we provide. But the emotional side is where we really connect, and we‟re able to connect through Jack‟s personality.” The key word is connect. Perhaps the main strength of mascots has been their ability to go where companies can‟t or CEOs shouldn‟t: birthday parties, store openings, baseball games, and so on. In the computer age, where connection happens as often on Facebook as it does face-to-face, mascots must now make the rounds online. Mascots have an ability to go where companies can‟t or CEOs shouldn‟t. While the terrain has changed, the role mascots play in a restaurant‟s marketing scheme— that of communicator in chief of the company—has not. Jack, for example, has a Facebook page with more than 350,000 fans and a Twitter account with almost 20,000 followers. He is also there to greet visitors to the Jack in the Box website (“Hi, I‟m Jack. Welcome to my web page thing.”). “The beauty of technology is that it gives Jack opportunities to communicate out to guests,” Graham says. “It also allows us to continue to bring him to life. That fact that our customers can see him and feel his personality is very effective. So we absolutely use these vehicles as more opportunities to communicate with our guests.” And having a mascot makes “driving” these “vehicles” a lot easier. “With social media you have to be engaging and have a one-on-one voice,” says Beth Mansfield, director of public relations for Carl‟s Jr. and Hardee‟s, whose mascot is Happy Star. “It‟s much easier to have that one voice be Happy Star instead of the marketing department of Carl‟s Jr. and Hardee‟s,” Mansfield says. “If we signed our Facebook posts „from the marketing department,‟ that would be a little awkward.” Unlike Jack, Happy Star does not feature prominently in Carl‟s Jr. and Hardee‟s television spots (nor is he recognized as the brands‟ founder, though his face is modeled on CKE founder Carl Karcher). Mansfield says this is because the brands are not primarily “engaging with people through television to have a conversation.” “On TV we‟re looking to tell people about a product and get them in the door to buy that product,” she says. “Social media is far more personalized. It‟s about creating a relationship with your fans.” Wienerschnitzel, which has 350 locations (mostly in California), is using its mascot, a friendly chilidog named “The Delicious One”, in a similar way. In its 50th year, the brand uses TDO as the face and voice of its Twitter and Facebook accounts, but has chosen not to use him in television advertisements commemorating Wienerschnitzel‟s half-century in business. “The spot‟s we are running now are black and white and use footage and pictures from years ago,” says Tom Amberger, Wienerschnitzel‟s VP of marketing. With 500 million people on Facebook, mascots should have plenty to keep them occupied without going on television, and CKE and Wienerschnitzel‟s similar strategies suggest that mascots are far from obsolete in the Internet age. It suggests, on the other hand, that their role in restaurant marketing strategies may start to grow. This seems especially likely as mobile technology becomes more sophisticated and gives businesses increasing access to consumers. More so than the Internet and especially TV, the telephone has a tradition as a personalized communication device, and using it effectively as a marketing vehicle might come easier for a mascot with a tailored personality than a complex brand. “The Robin from Red Robin fits easily in an app,” says Liz Goodgold, founder of RedFire Branding. “But look at it the other way: If you don‟t have the Robin, then you just have hamburgers.” If the Internet has strengthened job security for restaurant mascots, not everyone is happy about it. Critics denounce how restaurants use mascots to sell their brands to impressionable children. Industry analyst Clark Wolf sees them as a marketing tactic that is out of step with a new era of corporate responsibility. “The purpose of mascots in the restaurant industry is the same as Joe Camel: to create a connection and sell small children bad stuff,” Wolf says. “I look forward to the day when it‟s illegal or more highly regulated.” That day may be far off, but in the meantime, Wolf says, restaurants should restrain themselves, if only because he considers marketing a mascot a bad investment in a slow economy. “It‟s misspent money and in direct conflict with good, long-term business practices,” he says. Still, even a staunch critic like Wolf sees a use for mascots in a responsible restaurant brand. In transforming Ronald McDonald from a peddler of Happy Meals to a global philanthropist through the Ronald McDonald House, McDonald‟s has found a way to leverage the power of the mascot for the greater good, Clark says. “Ronald McDonald is a great example of a brand striking a balance,” he says. But the clown‟s effectiveness in raising money for charity underscores mascots‟ general effectiveness as pitchmen. The fact that mascots make it easier to leverage emerging technologies only adds to their value and suggests they will remain crucial to restaurants in the near future. Finally, there is their allure for that all-important segment of the quick- serve industry consumer base. “As long as restaurants want to appeal to kids,” says marketing analyst Joel Cohen, “mascots will play an important role in their marketing.” How many get their own parking spots, however, remains to be seen. Use of Mascots Sends a Strong, Symbolic Message http://www.content4reprint.com/culture-and-society/use-of-mascots-sends-a-strong- symbolic-message.htm Mascots may be most closely associated with sporting teams and sporting events. They become synonymous with the team itself, and may become the embodiment for the attributes the sports team holds dear. This is especially true when an animal or a historic figure (person) for a locale is used to represent not only the team, but possibly thecommunity. The use of mascots may convey the character, history, qualities, and ideas of not only the team, but where the team if from. Founders and historical figures from cities and towns may serve as mascots to indicate the history of the community and its roots. Money Making Mascots The use of mascots is not only for team usage, although that may be its most popular incarnation. Businesses, television stations and/or media venues, parades, and communities may all use mascots for several reasons. They are often leveraged as useful marketing tools to help promote a company, product, or event. This helps people to associate a symbol with an item or service that is being marketed to them. The mascot will assist in bringing the marketing campaign back to mind when the product or service will be needed by the consumer. Many tout mascots as being the best choice for placing funds for marketing. Experts say it will yield the best rate of return for the investment placed in a mascot. Use of mascots is especially useful when a company is new to the public at large. It will help to establish a name, reputation, and character synonymous with the company. Mascots as Positive Personalities Mascots may range from very generic symbols such as animals or historical people, to mascots that are unidentifiable anywhere else in the world. Teams and businesses can be as creative as they want with inventing a mascot. The mascot may represent the team colors, personal attributes a team or company prides itself on, or it can be a creation all of its own. Mascots may use actions or dances that make them unique in a physical way. Fans and customers may grow to love and expect the same qualities from the mascot. It important that the mascot be upbeat, positive, and charismatic to grab the attention of all ages and all types of people. Mascots Suit Up Typically, mascots have suits that are created for them. This can range in price from roughly $500.00 to as much as $25,000 depending upon the quality and who the designer happens to be. A team may not necessarily hold ownership rights over the suit. It may be important for a team or business to discuss this with the designer if copyright is of concern. Also, the construction and design of the suit is very important. A suit that is colorful and elicits attention from one's desired audience will work best. The suit should be properly ventilated ensuring that the person wearing the suit will be able to breathe easily and have a pleasant experience. It's very important to ensure that the suit is well constructed so it can withstand being worn for several events. Mascot Mania The use of mascots will help fans to become more involved in sporting events. It will be a crowd pleaser and will invoke excitement along with team pride. Businesses that decide they will benefit from the use of mascots will effectively market their services and easily become a household name. This will translate into dollars and higher profit margins for businesses. Not to mention a mascot can embody the mission or value statement of a company, ingraining this image on the minds of people everywhere. Mascots send a strong symbolic message to people who encounter them both for business and leisure.