More than just recognizable characters associated with a brand, today’s brand mascots seem to have lives of their own.
Brand mascots such as the Aflac Duck and Geico’s Gecko may have made their first appearances on television, but have since moved on to social media. Not only do these characters have their own social media accounts separate from their companies’ accounts, where they provide followers with backstories and adventures that, presumably, help Aflac and Geico sell product, but oftentimes their follower numbers rival those of their companies.
The Geico Gecko has almost half the number of followers as his company’s official account, while the Aflac Duck has three times the Twitter followers that Aflac itself has!
But all of this makes sense, according to a study by social media firm Synthesio that says brand mascots generate more social media buzz for a brand than celebrity spokespersons. Synthesio also says brands with mascots tend to have larger fan bases than those without, adding that a mascot can help generate approximately 30 per cent more social media volume for a brand.
Indeed, if you’re following the duck’s Twitter account, you’ll know that Aflac’s mascot even has his very own summer bucket list.
I think @AflacDuck should #TrySpaMud next. What do you think he should do?! #AflacSummerBucketList
— Trent ™ August 17, 2016
And then there’s the Travelocity Gnome, who we’ve all seen on TV travelling the world. He also does the same thing on Twitter, getting photos taken in each destination and interacting with fans.
Even @RoamingGnome has done a Peju Grape Stomp. We can’t wait for the big event tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/DWeX4crOUj
— Peju Winery (@PEJU_Winery) August 19, 2016
Brand mascots are also considered a safer investment for companies compared to celebrities. Brand mascots “never get in trouble with the law. They don’t up their fees. You can use them for a long, long time,” says Carol Phillips, president of Brand Amplitude.
Celebrities can certainly be costly for a company, especially if a spokesperson’s scandal damages their brand.
Given this ever-increasing value of brand mascots, we identified which critters appeared to be the most popular based on their Twitter follower count: Travelocity’s Gnome, Chester Cheetah of Cheetos, and the Aflac Duck were the top three based on follower count.
Using MediaMiser’s media monitoring and analysis software, we also tracked Twitter mentions around some of the top performing brand mascots. And after analyzing the data for one week in August, the Aflac Duck was the best-performing mascot based on share of voice.
Most tweets centred around the Aflac Duck came from followers suggesting adventures for his bucket list.
I think @AflacDuck should #BuildAFort next. What do you think he should do?! #AflacSummerBucketList https://t.co/JvO0EJGRuE
— Diana Cannon ⚙ (@grasses1) August 5, 2016
@CheesterCheetah was a close second with 21 per cent of mentions, most of which referenced The Cheetos Museum, which features pictures of unique Cheetos submitted by Chester Cheetah and fans.
Yes, my shrink ray works! See what other interesting shapes have been submitted at https://t.co/9GrphHhaTc. pic.twitter.com/NboSsDBm81
— Chester Cheetah (@ChesterCheetah) August 19, 2016
But just because these brand mascots are helping improve their brands’ social media mentions doesn’t mean that having a mascot is always a good idea.
As Nicole Karlis writes, “When dealing with a serious, sad or dramatic brand, a goofy character is usually not a good idea.” Brand mascots don’t work for all businesses, so companies need to consider if their target audience will be responsive to a mascot.
If designing a mascot is the way you want to go, your company will have to make sure to choose the “right” name, visual representation, and personality for your brand.
Making the wrong choices in the creative stage can get your brand the wrong kind of attention. Burger King’s King and the 2012 Olympic Game mascots, for instance, have come to be known as some of the worst mascots ever created. King was considered “frightening” and “creepy”, while the London 2012 mascots were “unidentifiable” and “confusing”.
BURGER KING: Buy our food. If we go under, our CEO will dress up in the creepy king costume and go on a killing spree.
— Pork-Chop Express (@AtomicCyborg) June 21, 2015
In his defence it’s four years later and I’m still not sure what Wenlock/Mandeville were meant to be.
— Gallifrey Alipy (@gazpachodragon) August 8, 2016
You want your character to add positive recognition to your brand, not make your audience uncomfortable.
Make the right decisions and your brand mascot will take on a life of its own, considerably boosting your brand’s social media buzz.