brand mascots

The story of Schmoozy Fox to be published in a forthcoming marketing book

 

I am happy to announce that a case study about Schmoozy Fox will appear as part of the forthcoming book, Brand Mascots: and other marketing animals, to be published by Routledge in the summer 2014.

The chapter called Schmoozy Fox: standing out from the pack was co-written by yours truly and Dr. Adriana Campelo Santana, Professor of Marketing at Cardiff Business School. I'm very happy to have worked together with Professor Campelo on this rewarding project.

The book Brand Mascots: and other marketing animals has been edited by Dr. Stephen Brown, Professor of Marketing Research at University of Ulster, and Dr. Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe, Professor of Marketing Communications at University of Ulster. My thanks go to both Dr. Brown and Dr. Ponsonby-McCabe for proposing to include the story of Schmoozy Fox in this book, and for doing great editing work on the chapter.

"The eminent anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss once observed that “animals are good to think with”.  They’re also good to brand with, as this book reveals. It shoots the breeze with Smokey Bear; dances the logo-motion with Hello Kitty; plays along with Cadbury’s drumming gorilla; gambols with the garrulous GEICO gecko; gets down and dirty with the peerless Peppa Pig; runs amok with the honking AFLAC duck; and compares the meerkat to monkeys, marsupials, Martians and more.  It goes wild and crazy with Tony the Tiger, Churchill the Bulldog and the Michelin Man for good measure.  Brand Mascots contains contributions from some of the world’s leading academic authorities on anthropomorphic marketing, including Russell Belk, Morris Holbrook and Barbara Phillips, as well as prominent practitioners of brand animal breeding, training and nurturance." (Stephen Brown & Sharon Ponsonby-McCabe)

If you'd like to learn more about the role brand mascots can play in your marketing strategies, please have a look at some of the previous posts I've written on this blog:

Brand mascots: shiny happy creatures

Kipling customizes its brand mascot

How Google keeps its Doodle funky

Brand mascots in action: Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Online brand mascots

Why meerkats help markets

 

 

Kipling customizes its brand mascot

I've written extensively about brand mascots which can play an important role in making your brand funky and remarkable. I've also interviewed Kipling in my Funky Brand Interview series. Today, I will show you how Kipling keeps us all engaged in its brand by allowing artistic and creative people (like myself :) ) customize its brand mascot -- the Kipling Monkey. In the UK, Kipling has organized a Mashed Up Monkey contest in collaboration with the Dazed and Confused magazine. If you want to create a unique Kipling Mascot, then submit it for review on the Mashed Up Monkey site, and maybe you will be the lucky winner. The winner will receive worth of £ 500 Kipling goodies, have his or her design displayed in the window of Kipling's London shop, and get featured in Dazed and Confused. I've customized a monkey, and the result is a very foxy orange monkey that you can see here. Unfortunately, I can't submit it for the competition as I am not a UK citizen, and don't qualify.

 

As I wrote in the Funky Brand interview with Kipling, innovation through collaboration with artists lies at the core of Kipling's brand strategy. Allowing artists and creative people to customize its brand mascot is yet another step which supports this strategy.

In France, Kipling has collaborated with 10 designers and stylists who have customized the Kipling Monkey.  All of the customized designs will be displayed at the Galerie de la Tour in Paris from June 1st till June 26th. The proceeds from this exhibition will be donated to Red Cross in Japan.

 

How Google keeps its Doodle funky

You might have noticed that Google displays different images on its homepage, depending on the zeitgeist. Sometimes it’s just a plain Google logo, but often it comes accompanied by the so called Doodles — images that express the holiday spirit, or important events. I wrote about it in one of my previous articles about brand mascots. In its recent initiative to promote young designers and inventors of tomorrow, Google has organized a competition for high school students asking them to submit their own Doodle designs. The winner is a 7-year old Matteo Lopez from San Francisco.

 

 

Brand mascots in action: Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Image courtesy of Travelocity Over the past couple of months, I've published a series of articles about brand mascots, beginning with the basics in my post Brand Mascots, some more details in Beastly Branding, and finishing with a concrete example of a mascot in Why meerkats help markets, and a story about Online brand mascots.

With my recently discovered interest in brand mascots, I decided to interview Joel Frey, PR Manager of Travelocity, about this company's brand mascot -- Travelocity Roaming Gnome. Joel has been with Travelocity since 2003 and has had the chance to take the Gnome to many fun places including New York, London, Memphis, TN, Orlando and Chicago, to name a few.

SCHMOOZY FOX: When did the Gnome become Travelocity's brand mascot?

Joel Frey: The Roaming Gnome became Travelocity’s brand mascot in January 2004. The first television ad appeared during the annual Rose Bowl college football game. During the holiday season of 2003, we ran some teaser ads showing images of the Roaming Gnome, but not tying him to Travelocity in an effort to create some pre-campaign buzz.

Image courtesy of Travelocity

SCHMOOZY FOX: Who had the idea about the Travelocity Gnome, and why was it important for Travelocity to make him part of its brand?

Joel Frey: The concept of the Roaming Gnome was pitched to us by ad agency McKinney in 2003. At the time, we felt an icon like Roaming Gnome would help us differentiate our brand from our competitors and it has. We also wanted to provide travelers a lens into some adventures they could take on their own via Travelocity. The Roaming Gnome has been a powerful vehicle for us in that regard.

SCHMOOZY FOX:  Could you tell me about your communications strategy tied to the Gnome? Is it the main way for Travelocity to communicate with its customers and if not, what other ways do you use to build the brand?

Joel Frey: Because the Roaming Gnome has become so synonymous with our brand, he has definitely become a broader part of our communications strategy, especially on the Travelocity Facebook page . He also has his own Twitter profile though we have a separate Twitter page that we use to communicate with customers. Beyond social media and traditional advertising, we communicate with customers in a variety of forums including our Window Seat blog. It is made up of an expert team of writers who post daily on a variety of subjects including tips, deals and hot destinations.

Image courtesy of Travelocity

SCHMOOZY FOX: Does the Gnome visit only places in the US, or does he like travel internationally as well?

Joel Frey: He travels everywhere!

SCHMOOZY FOX: Why do you think Travelocity's customers like the gnome?

Joel Frey: He’s funny, whimsical, and doesn’t take himself too seriously.

SCHMOOZY FOX: Any exciting future plans of the Gnome that you could share with us?

Joel Frey: Rumor has it that there’s a trip to the Southern hemisphere in his future….

Image courtesy of Travelocity

Online brand mascots

Recently, I've published several posts about brand mascots, cartoon-like characters that can infuse your brand with personality. In my first posts about brand mascots, I defined what they are. Further on, triggered by a reader's comment, I wrote an article Beastly branding, in which I concluded that most of brand mascots take shapes of people, animals, birds and insects.

Today, I want to talk about brand mascots that have evolved online.

Many online brands (and I've already written about the Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl) infuse some of that real-life personality by using brand mascots in their brand communications.

A good list of online brand mascots has been published in this article on Mashable. Here are the 8 mascots described there, apart from the already-mentioned Twitter bird and Hootsuite owl:

1) The Twitter Fail Whale

fail-whale

2) The Foursquare boy

foursquareThe name of the company is derived from a playground game with the same name, Four Square. My take on it is that Foursquare wants us all to "join in, and play the game", hence the mascot of a playing boy. The playground ball game Four Square, however, is probably mostly known in the US, where one would detect a subtle link between the ball game Four Square, and Foursquare's invitation to "play the game". I suspect this association might not be so apparent in other parts of the world, however.

In one of my previous articles, Learn to speak the language of your brand, I talked about brand naming for companies that want to expand internationally. The bottom line is that brand names (along with all the desired brand associations that they result in) should be understood in all countries where the brand in question wants to reach. Foursquare should have kept this in mind when naming its brand with potential to grow outside of the US.

3) Google "Doodles"

This one is very special. Probably everyone has noticed that Google displays different images on its homepage, depending on the zeitgeist. Sometimes it's just a plain Google logo, but often it comes accompanied by the so called "Doodles" -- images that express the holiday spirit, or important events.

I am not entirely sure whether Doodles are strictly speaking brand mascots, but this doesn't really matter. The point is, they add a bit of a zest to the brand, and entertain us all.

4) The Travelocity Gnome

travelocity gnomeI've mentioned the Gnome in the article on brand mascots, here he is, along with his Facebook fan page.

The remaining four brand mascots that have evolved online are the Firefox's fox, the Facebook "head" (used by Facebook in its early days), Myspace's people with headphones, and Reddit's Alien.

Why meerkats help markets

orlovTwo of my recent articles, Brand mascots and Beastly branding, focused on using fictional characters (most often animals) as brand ambassadors. To summarize, some brands have been successful using fictional human or animal characters as their brand mascots with the latter helping create powerful emotional links between brands and consumers.

One of the popular recent campaigns involving beastly brand mascots has been unraveling in the UK where www.comparethemarket.com (an  insurance comparison site) has launched a brand promotional ad campaign built around a figure of a Russian-speaking meerkat Alexandr Orlov. ((I have discovered the story about Orlov in an article about Antropomorphic marketing by Stephen Brown in Marketing Review, Fall 2010, Vol. 10, issue 3, pp. 209-224 ))

Somewhat cheesy and absurd, the supposedly Russian meerkat Orlov (by the way, his accent does NOT sound Russian) has nonetheless managed to attract a huge amount of attention across the UK.  As a result of the meerkat campaign, which included the launch of the site www.comparethemeerkat.com, as well as TV ads, sales on comparethemarket.com have skyrocketed.

As part of the meerkat-campaign, www.comparethemarket.com has also published a fictional autobiography of Orlov, The Simples Life, which has already sold more than 130 000 copies!

Beastly branding

The owl of hootsuite.com

In my previous post, I talked about brand mascots: when to use them to boost your brand, and when to avoid them.

After the blog post was published, one of my blog readers pointed out that the majority of brand mascots are, in fact, animals.

This prompted me to do a bit more digging into the subject, and here’s what I found: a very interesting paper by Professor Stephen Brown from Ulster Business School: Where the wild brands are: some thoughts on anthropomorphic marketing. (( Brown, Stephen., Marketing Review, Fall 2010, Vol. 10, issue 3, pp. 209-224 ))

The paper gives many examples of companies using animals as brand mascots, and discusses which beasts are most popular.

Ronald McDonald

Throughout history, humankind has had a love-hate relationship with wild animals. On the one hand, we fear and detest powerful predators, especially those that destroy our crops and kill our livestock. On the other hand, we envy and admire their speed and grace, adorn ourselves in their fur and feathers, and worship them as totemic deities who symbolise our tribes, our teams, our territories. (( ibid. ))

In branding, mascots became popular a century ago in France, when almost every company adorned its products with friendly looking cats, dogs and insects. Interestingly, fictional people’s characters have also been used quite successfully in branding. For example, the 116-year old Michelin man is still alive and well-known.

Brown concludes that fictional human characters are most popular brand mascots, followed by birds, domestic animals, and wild animals (so, SCHMOOZY FOX is still doing okay here!). Insects, aquatic creatures, vegetables and body parts (!) have much less popularity, although I would imagine that some friendly insects such as bees and lady birds are okay to use!

The main rule of thumb is that “Brand animal popularity is directly related to the species’ physiological and psychological distance from humankind.” (( ibid. )) The closer the species to the human kind, the easier it is for people to “process” a brand mascot.

In terms of animals, domestic and wild, it’s interesting to see that different countries might attribute different qualities to the same animal. So, study the character of your brand beast well before you go global!

burts_bees

Brand mascots

Photo by Bludgeoner86 on Flickr

You’ve ordered yourself a great logo. You’ve built an attractive web site. You’ve sorted out the look and feel of your distribution channels. And you even have a brand slogan that goes well with your funky brand name.

Provided that your business idea actually makes economic sense and that you’ve positioned yourself well against competition, chances are that you’ve built a good basis for your brand strategy that will lead to satisfied customers, and big profits.

And yet, you feel that there should be something else that will give your brand a personality.

Have you noticed that when you buy your funky Kipling bag, there’s a very cool little toy monkey that comes with it?

Or, when you buy your Michelin guide, it always has the Michelin man on its front page?

These cartoon-like characters are called brand mascots, and they are there to infuse your brand with that precious valuable personality.

Rather than part of your visual identity, brand mascots are essentially a marketing communications tool that gives your brand a more memorable and emotional character. Even if your brand mascot is actually an animal, chances are, it will give your brand a human touch.

Though brand mascots are becoming increasingly common, especially with the rise of social media (check out the Travelocity Roaming Gnome on Facebook), really good and effective ones are still rare.

kipling monkeyHere are some tips that will help you create a great brand mascot:

1) Think of your target audience -- will it be prepared to listen to your brand stories told by a cute mascot? If your company offers specialized software to accountants, don’t start pushing cartoon-like characters onto them to promote your stuff. The funky factor of your brand mascot needs to be consistent with the profile of your customers.

2) Don’t get obsessed with making your mascot look like your logo.

In fact, the role of the mascot is not to enhance your visual identity, but make your brand alive. Some companies change the appearance of their mascots, adapting it to the situation. For instance, different Kipling bags will have different monkey mascots, depending on the style of the bag.

Similarly, the Twitter bird often takes different shapes and forms, somehow still managing to look Twitter-like!

Twitter birds

3) Make your brand mascot connect to your customers emotionally. The main question you need to ask yourself is this, “What do I want my customers to feel when they interact with my brand mascot?” There should be something in your customers that resonates with the character of the mascot.

4) Consider a brand mascot only if your business makes economic sense.

This is a tough one! I’ve seen many startups invest tons of money into a lot of activity around their brand mascots -- only to realize that these cartoon characters alone neither  drove sales, nor built the brand. If you have nothing valuable to offer to your customers, they will be annoyed rather than delighted by your brand mascot.

5) Finally, make people remember your brand, not your brand mascot.

A brand mascot is only one element of your brand communications, but it doesn’t replace your whole brand strategy.  When people think of your brand, it’s okay if they first recall a funny cartoon-like brand mascot. What’s more important, however, is that they know what exactly this mascot exactly stands for! Remembering a cute furry animal, and not having a clue about what you actually sell, is not what you want from your consumers. Brand mascots enhance your brand, but they are not your brand.