Character Study: Brand Mascots in Social Media

Category: Marketing Dilemmas

Geoffrey the Giraffe.  The Green Giant.  The Nestle Bunny.  The Energizer Bunny.  Wendy.  The Rice Krispie Elves.  Chester the Cheetah.  The Travelocity Gnome.  The Pillsbury Doughboy.  And my creepy friend, The Burger King.  Brand mascots endear us to a product.  They create a connection by becoming the face of the brand.  So how do they play into today’s marketing strategies?  If we once again look to social media as a way to create a community around a brand or product, using a brand mascot can certainly bolster this effort.  We are more likely to pay attention to a brand when it has a character to follow on Twitter and “friend” on Facebook.  Some companies have the advantage of having a character already built into the legacy of their brand.  But only some brands are taking advantage of this.  Many companies have already integrated social media into their marketing but who is doing it through their brand’s mascot? Let’s take a look at a few examples.

Michelin Man

No longer puffy, the Michelin Man has undergone a makeover worthy of a superhero.  He is now a slimmer version of himself and hurls tires from his own midsection to defeat “the evil gas pump.”  His Facebook page, which has over 7,000 fans, provides information on coupons and is crowdsourcing ideas for the development of their new ads.  Over on YouTube, viewers can watch ads and stay up to date on new products.  The Michelin Man even has a Twitter page in his own name, keeping his 1,200 followers up to date with the latest in tires.  The current tagline reads, “The right tire changes everything!”  The Michelin Man aims to educate the public on how the right tire can reduce fuel consumption, increase driving safety and extend tread life.  All good things, but made more appealing to the average consumer through a social media outlet.

M & M’s

Who doesn’t love those cute little M&M’s on the commercials?  Each color has its own personality and therefore each can serve as an ambassador for a different campaign.  Take the newest product, for example: pretzel M&M’s (and why didn’t they think of this before!)  The M&M is being used as a spokesperson for the new product, with his neurosis around finding “the pretzel within”.  He and Carson Daly are featured in a series of videos on MSN called Behind the Shell.  Just so you don’t think all M&M’s are the same: Green M&M has her own Twitter account, as does Red M&M.  In fact, you can reinvent yourself as an M&M on the official website.  Now that’s a mascot.  M&M’s Facebook page, going strong with over 771,000 fans, offers a place for people to share their love of the candy but also to run ad campaigns.  The “Vote For Your Favorite M&M” sweepstakes offers a cash prize and encourages people to connect with the M&M mascot they love the most.  As if you could choose.

So what have we learned?  Well, it’s far easier to connect to brand with a face; especially if that face is that of a character.  Using a mascot to drive advertising through social media works well when you’re tying several campaigns together, as in the case of M&M’s.  Or it works well if you are trying to re-brand a company, as in the case of Michelin.  There are countless other brand mascots with their own Twitter accounts (Geico’s Gecko and Caveman) and Facebook pages (Mr. Clean and the Travelocity Gnome.)  And as long as consumers continue to interact with them, the more creatively they can be used as product ambassadors.

-Jordyn Haas

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