Recently, a man dressed as the Burger King mascot walked into rival McDonald’s and proceeded to hand out free Burger King burgers. For added effect, he also danced alongside customers. This stunt was well planned, and a video was pushed out through social channels. But interestingly enough, Burger King wasn’t behind the ploy – the flame broiled-focused QSR dropped its king mascot a while ago. Rather, it was a comedy group that came up with this ingenious stunt and managed to leverage what most brand marketers are now realizing – the right mascot can build and retain a big enough place in pop culture to warrant a one-off stunt that becomes a widespread social and traditional media sensation.
Further proving this point, the Burger King stunt comes on the heels of General Mills’ (client) announcement that two former mascots – the Green Giant and the Cheerios Kid – are soon to be making a comeback. What does this all demonstrate? It proves the “Mad Men” era brand mascot wasn’t just a fluke, and “spokes-characters” like the Pillsbury Doughboy and Charlie the Tuna have staying power.
So why after 100 years are the Michelin Man and Aunt Jemima still selling us the goods?
Social Power: Unlike even three years ago, brand mascots are increasingly becoming the frontline ambassadors for many brands’ social media platforms. They are likeable, non-threatening “personalities” that are tailor-made for social media. For example, Mr. Clean’s Facebook page currently has more than 400,000 likes, and Honey Nut Cheerios’ (client) Buzz Bee has more than 10,000 Twitter followers.
“Ownable” Pop Culture Personality: Rather than work with a third-party spokesperson, a brand mascot can literally be placed into any type of situation the brand desires. Most recently, Buzz was center stage in a video produced by the team at comedy site funnyordie.com co-starring “Conan” sidekick Andy Richter.
Emotional Pull: Our client Snuggle knows its consumers are connected to the brand’s mission toward “making the world a softer place.” So, this past year the brand reintroduce the lovable Snuggle Bear and supported the re-launch with a social-based program called “Snugs Across America.” For every “snug” uploaded on Facebook, Snuggle donated a bear to a child in need.
The Nostalgia Factor: A long-time brand mascot is a great way to re-engage the millions of Baby Boomers currently living in America, while appealing to younger consumers.
Whether it’s Smokey the Bear spreading the word about forest fire prevention or the “gecko” promoting Geico, an old-school brand mascot, created with a little heart and soul, can help effectively communicate a marketing message in today’s increasingly social and content-driven world. Even better, they never ask for raise.
--Mark Malinowski, Senior Vice President