As you grow your business, aspects of your corporate culture will invariably define the image of your product, services, employees, and your brand. Since the dawn of advertising, corporate giants and tech startups alike have embedded their brands in our brains with the use of company mascots.
Why have a mascot?
A single word can describe your company image.
An image can speak a thousand words about your company.
But a talking lizard can start a conversation about your company.
Do’s and Don’ts
While creating the perfect mascot is not an exact science, a horrendous one typically has these following signposts for failure:
- Don’t create a fictitious creature
Don’t make up imaginary creatures. Today’s popular culture is well equipped to handle friendly aliens and robots, but faceless amorphous blobs with hands are confusing and unappealing.
- Don’t be creepy
Maybe cute and cuddly doesn’t fit your brand image, which is totally reasonable. But take a lesson from Adobe’s CS3 Jester, and avoid identifying your product with a visit to the medieval torture museum.
- Don’t spare the creative effort
We’re all for minimalism and simplicity, but Larry the Cow from Gentoo looks like your daughter’s 3rd grade art project.
- Don’t force it:
Not all companies need a mascot. Consider whether or not your brand image really requires a creature to be a spokesman. If it seems like a worthy endeavor, then take the time to do it right.
- Use a professional
Enlist the help of a professional designer. Tap into a real creative resource and avoid the perils of poor photoshop work, clip art, and low quality drawings. Your coworker’s Sunday afternoons at Color Me Mine does not permit an artistic vision.
- Give your mascot a purpose
In 1997, Microsoft introduced Clippy, the friendly animated paperclip to assist you with a range of functions in Microsoft Office. Need help formatting a resume or formal letter? Clippy was there to make suggestions and offer help. This is a solid example of how a to breathe life into an otherwise boring help function of a product. Unfortunately, Clippy’s on-page summersaults and presumptuous questions became too distracting for users. Nonetheless, to this day the image of Clippy reminds me that I still don’t know how to properly format a letter –but who writes letters anymore?
- Make it real
Your mascot does not have to be confined to corporate watermarks, print publications, and the company t-shirt that nobody wears. Give your mascot a backstory, make a video, and take advantage of real life interactions. MailChimp provides a great example of how they brought their recognizable, yet inanimate mascot Freddie to life. Not only did they detail the process of creating a life-size Freddie suit, but they also published a video of Freddie frightening unsuspecting MailChimp employees in a hilarious take on Japanese hidden camera shows.
- Tell a story
Let’s face it, insurance is boring. And the ad agencies working for the major insurance companies in the U.S. know it. You may be familiar with Allstate’s Mayhem commercials in which a clever man personifies the Murphy’s Law of all terrible things that can happen to your home or on the road that would warrant proper insurance coverage. What many people don’t know is that Mayhem also has his own Facebook page, complete with a list of appearances and check-ins during the world’s most devastating historical events. The timeline practically goes back to the beginning of time, including a post in in the year 1331 titled “The Plague”, in which Mayhem claims responsibility for the world’s most powerful epidemic in history by bathing in a city’s water supply after feeling sick.
And don’t forget that mascots can change with the times. If a company worth $28 Billion in sales can evolve from the terrifying experience below, then who knows where your tap dancing parrot or talking kangaroo may take your business.