The Key Steps to Take Before Starting with Mascot Marketing

The Key Steps to Take Before Starting with Mascot Marketing

Written by Grace

Mascots can be a valuable tool to help connect with your audience. The right mascot or spokesperson can build your brand and ultimately help bring in revenue. More and more businesses have realized this and are using brand mascots in their efforts to boost sales. However, it’s important to get mascots right. A bad mascot can even damage your brand. In this article, we’ll help you understand if you can use the power of mascots to succeed in reaching your business goals.

1. Consider Your Audience

In our recent research, we found out that 17% of supermarket brands have mascots, and those companies are in the food and beverage industry. With food chains and cereal giants constituting the majority of them, it is clear why people associate mascots with this industry.


Although some industries may be more inclined to have a fictional brand representative, the first step is to determine whether or not your audience will be responsive to a brand mascot irrespective of your industry.

One of the best examples of audience rejection is the Microsoft's office assistant Clippit. Introduced in 1997, the user interface became of one of the most disliked features ever developed for Microsoft software.


Regarded by many as too masculine and creepy overall, the mascot’s failure could have been avoided if the company had taken on board the concerns of their target consumers in the design and development phase before simply releasing it onto them without any substantive input.


In an early development stage, the team of engineers behind the project conducted a series of focus groups to test the usability of the interface. To their surprise, the data showed a negative response to the character, especially from female participants. In a well run project where audience feedback was taken seriously, this would have been taken into account and at minimum a serious rethink of the character, how it operated as part of the user experience, or both would have resulted.


However, despite the data, the team members were willing to ignore the focus-group results and proceed with the project as it was originally planned. Perhaps other project requirements were deemed to be a higher priority, and a deadline was fast approaching. Or perhaps the focus groups had been planned in the hope of simply providing the appearance of public approval for the the mascot to help secure buy-in for the project from important internal stakeholders, and it was never intended as a serious exercise in consultation. Regardless of the specific reasons, Microsoft pressed on with the original plan for Clippit against the warning signs thrown up by focus groups.

The result was a substantial investment in time, effort, and money that had been invested with the aim of ensuring that the mascot would be well-received upon release being wasted. As a result, what had been a well-intentioned effort to create a relatable and helpful character as part for users became a failure that hung like a cloud over the company for several years.


This notorious example highlights the importance of thinking carefully about your audience. Would your audiences welcome a mascot or spokes character? If so, how could the character be tailored for your audiences? And how can you best answer these questions? When in doubt, look for feedback from your customers. Just make sure you listen to it.

2. Think of the message

Once you have known that your audiences would welcome a brand mascot, you should work on your message. Besides a recognizable image, a mascot needs a voice. You can think of this voice as a discourse supporting the company's objectives. What should the mascot be talking about, how should they say it, and why? Defining a clear message is vital to the success of brand mascot marketing.


Let's take a company who has successfully used a counter discourse as an example.


After realizing that the phrase "you’re in good hands" was overused in the insurance industry, Allstate decided to turn the conversation around by introducing a character to  communicate a clear "this is why you need us" message. The way Allstate did this was at once creative and an intelligent business decision based upon real objectives and a clear concept of the value Allstate offers its customers.

Depicted as a villain, the brand's spokes character, Mayhem, helps potential customers understand how chaotic life can be, and see in concrete terms how this mayhem could affect them negatively.  By being able to offset the danger caused by Mayhem, Allstate’s insurance products seem appealing and a useful protection against Mayhem that potential customers may want to invest in.


The funny and creative storylines behind his mischievous activities raised Allstate brand awareness to a new level. Burglaries, floods, gas explosions and any kind of disastrous situation you can imagine help Mayhem communicate "this could be you."


By choosing the right message, this American company was able to differentiate itself from other competitors and develop a brand mascot unique in the industry.


3. Review your strategy

A crucial element in brand mascot marketing is the strategy. How will you make use of the investment of having a mascot developed?


It is undeniable that brand character marketing can bring benefits in both the short and long-term. Its success, however, will depend on how the mascot will be implemented.


An amazing example of a successful strategy is Japan's beloved Kumamon.

Japan is no stranger to mascot marketing. Yuru-Chara, the Japanese term for mascot characters, is a popular business that continues to surprise with its fast development.


All over the country, festivals and special events are dedicated to the promotion of mascots representing brands from everywhere in the country. The biggest event being the Yuru-Chara Grand Prix.


Kumamon was originally designed in 2010 to promote Kumamoto's prefecture and attract tourism to the region. Its popularity increased so rapidly that just one year after his debut, the black fuzzy bear was the proud winner of Japan's Yuru-Chara Grand Prix with 280,000 votes.


From that moment, Kumamon became a total phenomenon, earning up to US$120 million in merchandising revenue in 2012 only.


While some credit his success to his participation in the Yuru-Chara Grand Prix. The real credit goes to the strategy behind promoting the mascot.


Since Kumamon was developed to support Kumamoto's prefecture, the regional government uses the mascot's image for many official purposes. Including the advertisement of local business. To promote Kumamoto's products, the government granted every producer in the region free licensing rights to use Kumamon as part of their advertising.


Suddenly everything coming from this province had the face of the bear in the packaging. Soda bottles, ramen noodles, and even watermelons were distributed all across the nation and even exported overseas. Kumamon was everywhere.


We’ve seen how, used intelligently, mascots can help companies and other organizations draw attention to themselves and achieve key objectives, whether that’s increasing sales or even promoting a geographical area. By listening to your desired audience at the mascot creation stage and by connecting it with the right message for your market, your organization can leverage a unique piece of intellectual property with the potential to rapidly accelerate progress towards business goals.