Brand Icons and Customer Service: Friends or Foes?

Senior Vice President Mark Malinowski recently shared his perspective on brand mascots as the comeback kid – that the right mascot can position a brand for continued pop culture relevance, especially with the power of today’s social media landscape.

Brands are eager, and rightly so, to leverage these loveable personalities across all owned media channels. And while icons like Mr. Clean may help cultivate an authentic voice for the P&G product, the consumer-generated nature of social media presents challenges. Social media is a real-time channel for brands to own and manage customer service efforts – so what happens when a consumer starts tweeting @RealMrClean about the chemical makeup of his or her cleaning products? Should Mr. Clean respond?

Cone conducted a comprehensive social media audit to gauge how brands with iconic mascots manage customer service issues on Twitter. After examining the social activity of 10+ brands, we found most fell into one of two camps – brands with separate corporate handles that monitor for issues directed at the mascot or brand mascots directing consumers to off-line customer service channels. Below are some examples*:

Separate Corporate Handles

  • Aflac’s @aflacduck, 17,862 followers: All customer service issues are handled via @Aflac_service and then directed to @AflacPhyllis or a customer care phone number or email address. For example: "@name Hi, please email us at to discuss your concerns and assist you immediately."
  • Energizer’s @EnergizerBunny, 17,862 followers: All customer service issues are handled via@Energizer and directed to a customer care phone number: (from @Energizer) "Our customer care team can help. You can contact them at 800.383.7323."

Direction to Off-Line Channels

  • Nestlé’s @NestleNesquick, 11,223 followers: Both the Bunny and the Nesquik team handle customer service issues from the character’s handle - many followers are asked to send a direct message to @NestleNesquik or are directed to a customer care phone number from the Bunny’s handle: "@name, Sorry about ur experience! NESQUIK is supposed to make ppl happy. We'd love 2discuss further - please DM us w/ ur email."
  • Snuggle @SnuggleBear, 507 followers (Cone client): The handle is in the voice of the Snuggle Bear, who doesn’t manage customer service issues – consumers are directed to offline channels for support: “Hi @name, I want to help! Please email so Snuggle can investigate.”

Regardless of method, most brands choose to keep their mascots’ feeds chock-full of personality and removed from the customer service arena. Brand mascots are invaluable to the companies they represent, and need protection from the demands of running a business. Which route should your brand and/or client go? To each his own, but weighing the pros and cons through a consumer eye will help.

After all, at the end of the day, consumers – and the brand – want the Geico Gecko to maintain his place in their hearts as a friendly, funny and feisty fellow, not be the one to deny their insurance claims.

*At time of audit, December 2012

--Jessica Anselmi, Account Supervisor, @jessica_anselmi and Michelle Toomey, Account Executive, @MichelleToomey


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