How the best brand mascots boost consumer connections

Think of a colonel or a talking mouse – chances are, the first images that pop into your head aren’t of a military serviceman or a nondescript rat. Without a single allusion to their official titles, the two terms conjure up connections in our minds to two of the world’s foremost brands, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Disney. 

From the Michelin Man, created out of a stack of white tires all the way back in 1898, to the vibrant M&M’s that first appeared on television in 1954, this split-second inference is exactly what the right mascots can do for businesses.

The statistics back this up. According to 0707 Agency, advertising campaigns that include a familiar face are 37% better positioned for greater market share than brands that go without. 

While seemingly inconsequential, mascots do more than just provide a talisman for products or organisations. Through a story weaved over the years, these characters humanise brands to their target audience, embodying the business in a personality that the public can feel connected to.

By establishing these bonds, brands can then elicit emotional responses from buyers through a mascot’s actions – including humour, likability, or empathy. The more consumers interact with a character, the more authentic connections are formed, turning the mascots into trusted companions that guide customers through the brand journey.

With nostalgia taking centre-stage in marketing efforts over the past two year, more brands are bringing back amicable faces that once graced our screens and billboards. For instance, Kool-Aid’s recent rebranding campaign saw the return of the Kool-Aid Man, while McDonald’s brought back the Hamburglar as part of a menu refresh.

Source: McDonald’s

In the era of social media, mascots no longer remain as animated 2D profiles. Instead, customers find themselves drawn to characters that showcase a distinct personality. One such example of a mascot turned TikTok star is Duo, the green bird fronting language learning app Duolingo. 

The star of the brand, known for its sassy, trend-jacking quips, has regularly stolen the spotlight on social media, from showing off its “well-rounded” posterior with merchandise including Duo Butt Briefs, to going the extra mile for an April Fool’s prank by releasing a trailer for ‘Duolingo on Ice – The Multilingual Musical’. 

Source: Duolingo

Another grass-hued animal that’s found a place in pop culture is Geico’s 25-year-old mascot, Gecko. Ahead of the 2024 Super Bowl, the insurance company released a 15-minute-long documentary on the loveable creature, titled Legend of the Lizard.

As Campaign Live reported, this film was arguably the “biggest stage yet” for the seveninch-tall mascot, who made its debut in 1999. The character came about as a “mental shortcut” for customers to make a connection with Geico, an acronym for Government Employees’ Insurance Company, which the firm admits “doesn’t necessarily just roll off the tongue.” 

Source: Geico

Neel Williams, Senior Vice President and Group Creative Director at the Martin Agency, who has worked with the brand for 30 years, explained that the first big step was expressing Gecko’s humanity. 

“He’s as human as you or I. He has a magnetism that comes from empathy and selfawareness. He is humble to a fault. And basically, he is a really well-defined character,” he noted.

In the same vein, ABrandADay refreshed the iconic DoDo Boy to appeal to a new generation of customers, transitioning it from a mere emblem into an “influencer”, with a newfound purpose of championing responsible food choices and technological innovation. 

The updated logo, adorned with the DoDo Boy’s cheerful appearance and resembling a quality control seal, stood as a powerful representation of DoDo’s bold new brand identity.

If there’s one thing that’s key for a face of a brand to appeal to consumers, it’s relatability. That’s the direction we went with when coming up with Senoko Energy’s mascot for its New Homeowners campaign

Instead of introducing a brand-new concept that may have been foreign to Singaporeans looking to step into their first homes, the idea of BB Ong Lai tapped into a long-standing tradition deeply rooted here: pineapples. 

Noting that it was customary for couples to roll a pineapple into their new homes as a sign of good luck, the New Homeowners mascot took on the identity of an auspicious pineapple. 

With a face, hands, and legs, the character grew into more than just a fruit – becoming an adorable, personable keepsake that would live in the new homes it brought prosperity to as a reminder of the brand’s part in an exciting homeownership journey.

BB Ong Lai made its debut alongside its 4,999 equally plush companions in a vending machine at COURTS Megastore Tampines, continuing its journey on social media to educate consumers on the benefits of switching over to Senoko Energy and sharing valuable energy-saving tips along the way.

“BB Ong Lai’s remarkable success reflects our commitment to go above and beyond the transactional aspects of our business. At Senoko Energy, we have always gone the extra mile to connect with our customers on a personal level and understand their unique needs and aspirations,” remarked Heather Ang, Head of Marketing at Senoko Energy.

Intriguingly, the cuddly plushie even made an appearance during President Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s campaign, in which it made an appearance alongside the statesman during a live radio talk show.

Thanks to BB Ong Lai’s memorable likeness, the New Homeowners campaign has played a significant role in ABrandADay being nominated for several awards, including Most Effective Use – Customer Acquisition, Most Effective Use – Omnichannel, and Most Effective Use – Specific Audience at the MARKies Awards Singapore 2024.

Soon, the charming pineapple will make its way back to stores for redemption; this time with a refreshed look and a new surprise for customers to look forward to.

References

883 North Bridge Road #15-03

Southbank, Singapore 198785