Mike Hanbery March 27, 2012

Social Media Marketing: Should Your Business Have a Mascot?

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Mascots are enjoying a renaissance in advertising. Charlie the Tuna and Speedy from Alka-Seltzer are back. Spam has launched its first such figure with Sir Can-A-Lot. Planter’s Mr. Peanut has grown a hapless brother, Doug.

Being represented by fictional characters is not just for consumables anymore. Allstate’s Mayhem character pops up in Facebook news feeds with nuggets like, “I should cross the street. No, I should turn around. I should cross the street. No, I should turn around.” – A squirrel, generating over 17,000 likes and 465 comments in four hours. An enormous investment in TV advertising helps draw dozens of users to the page each hour, posting golden nuggets like, “Weren’t you riding around Memphis today throwing tree branches and yard debris out of the back of an overloaded old pickup truck during rush hour?” and, “Mayhem needs to come to Texas! Maybe a loose rodeo bull or a rattlesnake in the road. Just some ideas.”

Five years ago, anyone telling the bartender auto insurance companies would be setting the standard for producing funny, viral content, would be served coffee and gently placed into a taxi—and yet here we are. If a commodity like auto insurance can find a way to make its product interesting enough to generate traffic to and user content on a Facebook Page, there may well be an opportunity for other businesses to do something similar.

Reasons a mascot may be right for a company’s social media marketing include:

  1. Mascots add personality to a brand and personification of a product.
  2. One of the draws of social media, especially Facebook, is escapism. Users tend, strongly, to operate within the network. Advertising campaigns on Facebook, for example, enjoy much higher conversion rates when all functionality remains on Facebook. Interacting with a fantasy character is fun and a definite momentary escape from reality. Mayhem has over 1.2 Million “likes.” His employer, Allstate, has 75,000.
  3. They provide a buffer for customer service. Prior to its merger with CenturyLink, Qwest experimented with giving a specific personality to its Facebook page manager. Posts on the page came from “Ellen,” rather than from a faceless corporation. They found that customers with complaints were much nicer to and patient with a person than they were with the company. Add the element of a mascot who can provide entertainment, and the effect increases.
  4. Mascots can take a light-hearted approach to subjects business professionals must treat as serious. They can have more fun than most of us.
  5. In social media marketing, content is king. Good content entertains, makes people laugh, touches the heart. These are all much easier for characters and people to do than companies.

In order to use a mascot, companies need to:

  1. Identify the key personas targeted for your product or service. To what type of character will they respond favorably? What should she/he/it/they look like?
  2. Is there, as with Captain Morgan Rum, a historical context to be leveraged?
  3. Brand relevance is critical. Your mascot will be a company spokesperson. A seahorse may represent a company selling marine supplies well but it would be irrelevant to, say, a church supply business. Confused prospects take no action. Confused clients start looking for other solutions.
  4. Establish the character’s “voice.” Is she elegant or clumsy? Lazy or industrious? Creative or analytical? Depending on your market position and the story you intend to tell, there could be opportunities for any of the above…but consistency will be key to success.

Does your company use a mascot? If you had one, what would it be? Why?

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