Recently, in our post titled Fur, Sweat and Tears, we discussed what it takes to be a great mascot.
Being astute, entertaining and passionate were some of the key criteria in the ability to perform successfully, along with other physical attributes; but these I felt held less importance as they could be achieved over time with regular performances and a little bit of personal motivation to improve fitness, which has always been a challenge for me…
So I thought this time we’d talk about what actually MAKES a good mascot. Not the physical process of manufacture, which I’ll approach in another blog at a later time, but more around character design considerations when thinking about the actual Costume itself from a promotional point of view. Of course, as with everything there are exceptions to the rule so look at this more as inspiration to give you a starting point when entering the world of the costumed character.
Making it Memorable
If you search the web for mascot design blogs, you’ll eventually come to find that the majority of these posts deal with the creation of a mascot character for your brand or Logo in graphical form. This is a great place to start if you don’t already have a character in mind. Some of these blogs briefly guide you through the design process and considerations for eye catching and simple designs, often giving examples of successful characters and the reasons behind why they work.
This article from 2012 goes through a small selection of the more memorable international brand mascots, and gives some of the reasoning behind why they are successful. The general consensus is that the character re-enforces the company message, personifying (or anthropomorphising) the company’s (or product’s) values and beliefs.
One of the examples briefly mentioned in the article is Snap Crackle and Pop from the popular cereal brand Kelloggs. The names of these characters represent the appealing sound made by Rice Krispies whilst the appearance of the cheeky little elves, with their bold, contrasting colours appeals more to children, giving the cereal a persona and physical appearance they can relate to. A real testament to great character design, Snap, Crackle and Pop have been with us since the early 1930’s, obviously with slight adjustments to keep them fresh and current throughout the decades.
What makes these 3 little elves so successful is that they are memorable characters that have stood the test of time. Mention Snap, Crackle and Pop to someone and they will know exactly what product you are talking about without ever using the product name. For Kelloggs, this is mission complete. Michelin Man, Nesquik Bunny, Mickey Mouse and many others are pinned to the forefront of our minds because they are well thought out and easy to remember characters, irrespective of the multi-million-pound marketing campaigns behind them. Starting off with a good character design is key to the success of your costumed compadre, so take time to consider your original character artwork, the message you want to portray and who you are targeting your message at.
So once you have thought about your memorable mascot and have an idea of what it is you want to create, the next step is to give it some character. Think about your character’s personality and how you would like to portray the sentiments of your business, club or charity to a wider audience of people, some of which will already know your business but the majority may not. This could be your chance to make a lasting impression so getting this right is key to its success.
One way to give your mascot a personality, is through the art of expression, and I don’t mean freeform dance (although a dance routine for your costumed character isn’t a bad idea), what I actually mean is the expression on your furry friend’s face. Designers for high profile mascot campaigns spend countless hours, if not days experimenting with various eye and mouth positions to make sure that they are getting the right message across and ensuring their Mascot fits the characteristics of the company. For example, a Halloween based character may have more of a scowl than a smile but it’s all about context.
Of course, not all mascots have facial features as some can be inanimate objects, or the traditional teddy bear type. In this instance, think more about how your character moves, what they should and shouldn’t do, what they are wearing and how your character interacts with its audience. For example, a football club mascot may be mischievous and active on the pitch, whereas a mascot for a respected high end shop would want to portray itself with a little more decorum…for the most part… The main thing is to make your mascot interesting. It doesn’t necessarily need to be liked (as it could be portraying a villainous character) as long as it does what you set out for it to do.
Customisation is Key
Customising your characters appearance to include physical accessories or clothing emblazoned with a company logo for example is a great way to get your message shown to the masses. Not only to the immediate audience, but to people right across the world via the medium of the internet. Over 1 Trillion (1,000,000,000,000 to put it in numbers) photos and videos are taken annually and the vast majority of these find their way on to the internet. Mascots make great talking points and photos of your character are almost certain to end up on the World Wide Web.
Making sure that your brand message is clear and visible to everyone, either through your memorable character design or through other forms of customisation is paramount in catching the attention of potential customers and creating an interest in your brand. Customising your character also makes it unique and specific to your needs allowing you to really get behind it as the face of your company. If you’re struggling for ideas as to how you can customise your mascot, have a look at our Top 5 accessories here.
Memorable design, personality and customisation – the three buzz words to think about when creating your character design. As long as these are taken into consideration, your bear, alien, humanoid or whatever it is you choose to create will stand out from the crowd and shout your message louder than any megaphone possibly could. There’s nothing wrong with looking at other characters for inspiration, of course there are many Lions, tigers and bears out there but just make sure you personalise your character so that it is relevant to you, your business, sports club or charity.