Brand Mascots: Connecting Advertising to Content
There’s a marketing agency I know that proclaims we live in a “post-advertising age.” Some great campaigns by insurance companies Geico and Progressive demonstrate that it’s better described as an “advertising-plus age.”
If you haven’t guessed already, I’m referring to Geico’s “Gecko” and Progressive’s “Flo,” the maniacally chipper saleslady. As these two bust out over every platform, they demonstrate the importance of a robust content vehicle that can take customers way beyond advertising—even if advertising is how you first discover them.
Gecko’s newest adventure is his “Journey Across America.” The campaign is anchored by national TV spots in which our lizard friend comments on local customs in Chicago and elsewhere while spreading the good news about saving money on car insurance.
But the campaign also permeates YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. On Gecko’s Facebook page you can follow his travels on a map. And his multimedia travelogue is attracting hundreds of comments by people who appear to believe he is real.
As for Progressive’s Flo, she now has 3.5 million fans on Facebook, according to a new story in the Wall Street Journal. The Journal notes that using characters to personify corporate brands has been given new life by “the need to find ways to engage with consumers on Facebook or Twitter.” The story also mentions Aflac’s talking duck and the Old Spice Manly Man.
As the story notes, companies often must hire staff to tweet, post, write, speak and act in the mascot’s persona. But the payoff can be huge, as the Old Spice found out when his Manly Man single-handedly doubled sales without even wearing a shirt.
The Manly Man also spurred a ton of amusing and enjoyable content creation by devoted fans, some of them quite famous themselves. (On YouTube, the Manly Man carries on “dialogues” with Ashton Kutcher, Rose McGowan and more—they tweet, he responds via video)
Clearly, “brand stories” aren’t always very interesting, but mascots’ stories can be. And once we’re seduced by a mascot, our hunger for stories and communication—in all media, on all platforms—just grows. As these characters demonstrate, a good ad spot just doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s where the “plus” comes in “advertising-plus.” The most successful brands will have a vehicle—a character, a message, a cause or the like—that is so robust that it can support content creation across both traditional and social media. It must “speak” to your customers, spur dialogue with them, and ring true all the way through.
Richard Sine writes about business, personal finance and health for magazines and content marketers. He writes regularly for Men’s Health magazine and for brands such as Fidelity Investments, UPS and Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.