Mascots have been around since the early days of advertising. Some of the oldest brands, like Kellogg’s, Campbell’s or Coca Cola have used characters to improve everyday recognition of their brand, helping to get the message across.
In today’s web era they’re not any less common. In fact, mascots seem to have been gaining popularity in the last few years. From relatively small companies or service providers like Github or Mailchimp, to big fish such as Compare the Market, more and more businesses decide to add a character to their brand arsenal. But why?
What is a mascot?
A mascot is a character that personifies your brand. Think of it as the face of your company. It can be anything: an inanimate object, animal, human, or even a completely imaginary creature. The aim of a mascot is to communicate your company’s values and talk with your customers on your behalf.
Benefits of a mascot for your brand
Having a mascot as part of your branding may seem like just an aesthetic choice, but it’s actually more powerful than it looks.
Personality and emotion
First of all, a mascot will add some personality to your brand and make it seem more ‘human’. It is much easier to form an emotional bond with a brand’s mascot than it is with the brand itself. Think about Coca Cola’s Santa Claus. Does the logo itself trigger the same powerful reaction as the mascot does? When you let your brand character speak and communicate with the user, the bond will become even stronger.
A well designed mascot will make your brand stand out from the competition. We’re visual creatures and we’re more likely to remember the look of a logo than the actual name on it. If you introduce a character that matches the rest of your branding, your product will become even more recognisable.
As we just mentioned, if a product is easier to recognise, it will be also easier to memorise. This will become handy when you decide to change something major in your product, such as the packaging or colours. Your customers will still remember the character and link it to the old version of the product that they’re used to.
As Susan Weinschenk writes in her book 100 Things Every Designer Should Know About People that we’re hardwired to look out for other humans. There is a whole section in our brains dedicated just to recognising faces. Because of that, whenever there is a photo of a person on a website or in a magazine spread, it instantly grabs our attention. If that person is looking at a product, we’ll naturally follow their gaze. You can use this instinct to your advantage by placing the mascot in strategic places to guide user’s attention whenever you need it.
Having a mascot gives you greater flexibility in terms of brand application. A friendly character begs to go on stickers, tote bags, postcards and other promotional materials. You can easily use it in your social media campaigns, tutorial videos, website’s help centre or other online contexts. A mascot will take you much further than just the logo.
How to integrate a mascot into your branding
Now that we’ve grabbed your attention, you may wonder how to integrate a mascot into your own branding and if it’s possible at all. Many people think illustrated characters apply only to brands aimed at young audiences, but that’s not true at all. Consider some of the previous examples – vintage Campbell’s soup or today’s Compare the Market are not geared towards children, yet they’ve successfully embraced friendly characters.
However, it is true that not every brand’s tone of voice can accommodate a mascot. If your company is a serious, down-to-earth business, you should probably avoid having one. It’ll look out of place next to the rest of your brand. Think about it: would you feel confident about a serious law firm that tries to communicate with you via friendly character? To be genuine and trustworthy you have to make sure that you project a uniform image.
To decide if a mascot will work for your brand you need to think of what message you’re trying to get across, what your tone of voice is and how your target audience would react to an illustrated character. Friendly company with customers who like a little bit of fun will surely gain from having one.
Visually, mascots usually match the rest of the brand in terms of colour palettes, shapes and things they say. If a brand’s logo consists of round, organic shapes, the mascot will usually be round and curvy as well. If your tone of voice is a bit goofy, the character will also speak that language. To be convincing and recognisable as a part of your brand, it has to fit in both in terms of visuals and things it says.
Of course, you can’t achieve all that yourself and will need some assistance from a professional. Luckily, we have all the right tools! Here are a few of our own brand character design examples…
Luxury Flooring is a Leeds-based company that stocks affordable flooring to transform any home. We enhanced their brand with illustrations of two friendly owls based on the owners – Cameron and Declan – which have been integrated with their new eCommerce website. The whole package included 4 full-colour vector illustrations that point users to important calls to action, and a selection of sketches that are scattered across information heavy pages, such as delivery info or advice centre. The Owls turned out to be a massive success among their customers and are now extensively used across all of their promotional materials.
The Yorkshire Soap Company are a well established brand that wanted to take their revenue, customer base and experience up a notch. We designed and built an eCommerce website, but to make sure the online experience is as magical as in their physical stores, we added animal characters inspired by old children’s books. These creatures have soon appeared in the offline world as well, being displayed in their shop windows during Christmas and Easter seasons.
If you’d like to incorporate illustrated characters into your branding as well, let us know and we’ll get our pencils ready!