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The CWC guide to Facebook success: creating a mascot character profile

Costume Characters are a great way to promote your business, charity, sports club, products, services, the list is endless. Where there is a mascot there is usually a buzz of excitement, people taking photographs and generally getting giddy about interacting with your oversized ambassador.

Walnuts Lights
This type of live event creates a memorable occasion for those lucky enough to be there and leaves a positive lasting impression that means hopefully, the next time someone requires what you can offer, you’ll be at the forefront of their minds. But what about all those people that can’t get to the event or live in a different country that would love to know more about your services? It would seem a shame to allow your brand ambassador to live only for their events, especially when the modern world is such a small place.

Thanks to the miracles of technology, no longer are your mascots destined only to be local heroes. From the platform of the internet, your character can shoot for the moon and reach the stars; or potential customers, right across the globe with a little bit of creative thinking.

If you haven’t thought about creating a social media page for your character, then now is a good time to start. Facebook is still at the top of the social media pile with over 1 billion views a day and approx. 2 billion unique sessions a month. It’s a medium for exposure that shouldn’t be overlooked and is a great place to start your mascot’s journey into online personable interaction with your audience.

As well as individual profiles, there are also over 60 million ‘Business’ pages that have been created, such as ours, giving you easily accessible information and keeping you up to date with the latest goings on from company HQ. With all the various page types to choose from, this brings us nicely to our first consideration.

Profile vs Pages

Character PageWhen setting up a page for your character, you’ll be hit with choices right off the bat. The first choice you will have to make is whether you want to create a profile or a page for your mascot. There are differences in the two which will change the way you interact with your audience:

Profile

This is the typical individual profile like the one you would set up for yourself. With a profile page, only those who you invite or accept as a friend will be able to see your content and in a profile, advertising/paid promotion isn’t available. Only one of these pages can be created with one login and password.

Pages

Much more suited to business, pages are a great way to showcase your product, brand, event and you’ve guessed it, mascot. With pages, content is available for everyone to see and instead of inviting friends you invite people to like your page. Pages allow for paid advertising and promotion, so once you’re all set up and happy with the details you can start to put some premium promotion behind your character should you so choose.

Facebook PageBecause the Character you want to be promoting is your brand ambassador, I would suggest choosing to create a Page rather than a profile as this will give you the most amount of flexibility with your account.

What type of page should I use?

Once you have made your decision to start and have clicked the pages button, you will be presented with a list of options as to what you would like your page to be. There are 6 options to choose from, but only one that I would recommend for your brand ambassador:

Artist, Band or Public figure – Used to be called a fan page back in the day, this would be the right Public Figure Logochoice for a fully dedicated page all about your mascot. With this category, you can be a little more personable with the tone of your message as people will be interacting with a character that has its own personality, opinions etc. without the usual corporate undertones you would expect on a dedicated business page. The idea is to build brand association between your products/services and your mascot. People are much better at remembering faces than they are business names so it’s a great way to keep at the forefront of your potential customer’s mind.

If you find that you have chosen a type of page that on reflection isn’t suited to your character, you can always go into your settings to change the page type later.

What next?

So now you’ve made your decision and you are ready to start building the content for your mascot showcase; what kind of information do you need to create a successful page? Below I’ll discuss 5 important points to consider when constructing your character profile.

Back story

Sid BioEveryone has a back story; a place of origin, likes and dislikes, annoying character traits (we all have them) and a distinct personality. It’s what makes us all so unique and if it wasn’t for these differences, the world would be such a boring place. Real or fictional, a back story is a great way to bring your character to life.

When thinking about your character’s back story, think about where they were born, where they grew up, if they have any family, a romantic interest, favourite hobby, funny story surrounding a calamitous event, how they came to your employment, it can be as elaborate as you want it to be! The aim is to make your mascot more relatable by giving it a history and turning it into a ‘real’ character. If people grow an affinity towards your mascot then there’s a good chance they’ll come to you next time they need your services.

Photos and videos

Essential to any social media page, photos and videos are what your potential Wolfie Photosclients will interact with most often. These tend to stand out against status updates, post links, and text-based content because our brains can process imagery faster than it can decipher the text.

Over 90% of human interaction is visual so it makes sense to follow this thinking when it comes to social media. Think about the kind of things you look at on social media. I’m guessing that most of the memorable posts you have engaged with recently contain either photos, videos or cats…. far more cats than you would want to admit to but probably in one of the two formats discussed. So logically, the answer is to get a cat mascot costume and to take lots of photos of it.

I jest but having some great promo shots of your character and making sure you travel with a camera to all events will ensure you get some fantastic and interesting snaps to share with your fans, who in turn will share with their friends, and the chain grows longer, expanding your reach far beyond the physical boundaries of a local event.

Other content

Once your character page is up and running; you’ve fabricated your biography and have taken lots of great photos of your mascot, it’s time to start looking at building and planning regular content to keep your potential customers engaged.

Whether it be linking through to an interesting article or playing fill in the blanks, content should be varied and promote interaction between your Brand Ambassador and your page fans. A great tip is to have a look at your potential customer base and to do a bit of research to see what matters to them and what they generally find interesting. If you can tap into this when looking at content for your page, you will find the interaction levels increase when a fan is genuinely interested in a topic.

It’s well known that the hard sell isn’t an effective method when it comes to Facebook, so even though your customer is potentially interested in your product, a direct sales message (unless heavily promoting a significant discount) will be skipped past by most people, so keep it light-hearted.Word Morph

Another great way to engage fans is to pose questions. Think about finishing off some of your posts with a discussion point or ask for an opinion. We all like to give our 2 cents worth and if it’s a topic close to your customers’ hearts, not only will you get the opportunity to engage, but you’ll also learn some valuable insights into their likes/dislikes so you can further tailor your offer or content down the line.

Competitions can also get your fans engaging with your content. Something like a caption contest or a small sweepstake is all that is needed to start the likes and shares flowing, creating a buzz around your character and their page.

It’s important to remember that the prize on offer should reflect the amount of effort required to enter the competition. If it’s a big prize, then make your fans work a little harder for it by submitting an entry. If it’s information you are after, keep the prize small and make it a simple comment below type of contest. A competition is a great way to gain valuable information and stats from your customers that can be used later. For example, to enter a sweepstake, fans may have to like and share the post and then tell you what their favourite flavour of ice cream is in the comments below. This information could allow you to introduce a new flavour down the line that you know will be a popular choice because you’ve heard it right from the horse’s mouth.

With all content, it is important to remember to promote the core values of your company in the way you present, write and perform with your character both online and offline. If your character is about promoting healthy living, then try not to offer unhealthy prizes, or give information contradicting the beliefs of the company. This can lead to you sending a confusing message to your customers that can de-value the hard work you have put in to building your brand.

Above all, keep your content interesting. It’s better to have 2-3 relevant and engaging posts a week than to fill up your wall with low-quality daily content for the sake of posting.

Account linking

social-media-icons

Account Linking is the act of joining two or more social media platforms so that if you post on one, it automatically posts on the other and vice versa. This may sound like a great idea at first; meaning that you can reach out to all your networks in one go but people use Facebook and Twitter (which we’ll use for this example) in very different ways. For example, Twitter posts are limited to a set number of characters (140 characters, not including Twitter handles – the @username) whereas Facebook will allow up to 5000 characters per comment or status update, allowing for longer posts and in-depth discussion right on the site.

Sharing your Facebook update with Twitter can end up cutting out a lot of the comment and can leave your Twitter account looking messy with lots of seemingly unfinished comments. There’s also the issue around replying to fans and potential customers. When linking, there are no notifications that let you know when someone has replied or commented on a thread via the other platform, so unless you log in regularly to either account, your Character might unintentionally ignore your customer base who may search elsewhere.

The best advice I can give you on this is to start with one platform, and only open your character up to more social media avenues when you feel ready to handle them individually. Products like Hootsuite enable you to choose which posts go to which social site, so if you do feel the content is relevant on both, you get the option to share it.

Invitation and promotion

Boost PostTo get your page started, there are two ways to gain a following. One is through invitations, and the other method is through sponsored advertising.

Facebook offers several paid avenues to promote your character’s page, ranging from boosting posts to advertising in your local area. Both are relevant but depending on your end goals, these promotions can work out quite costly. The trick is to fine tune your advert audience interests to only include relevant topics and hobbies to ensure you maximise the spend.

Inviting people to like your page, on the other hand, is free but you can only invite people you either already know personally or have the email address for, which you can upload to Facebook so that it can send out the invites. Some people are happy to receive invites to their inbox, others can be a little wary as they can feel a little impersonal.

Wrapping up

You’ll hopefully find that if you follow our guidelines and post regular and relevant content a few times a week, your fan base should start to grow and your mascot will become more recognisable across the globe and not just locally.  The information above should get you started but don’t be afraid of trying new things as audience interaction is always evolving, especially in the fast-paced field of social media.

If I can leave you with one thing from this article to ensure a successful character page, it should be this short and simple message:

Don’t Market, Connect.

If you feel you need any help or advice on how to set up your costumed character’s page or just want a chat about creating your brand ambassador then send us a message via this form.

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Marathons and mascots: a guide to running in costume

Marathon Running

Participating in a marathon for many of us, is a superhuman feat. Over 26 miles of relentless running and jogging, or in many cases, walking and limping to complete a course designed to challenge even the hardiest of runners. Dedication, hard work and determination are required to complete the course, not to mention the mental strength to push beyond the ‘wall’ and keep those legs pounding the pavement to success.

For the most part, marathon runners can be categorised into three groups: The super-fit people that do it for kicks, jostling for position on the PB (personal best) leader board of their local running club or on the latest fitness App. There are those looking to better themselves physically, using the marathon as a goal to work up to, giving their training a purpose with a goal to achieve and then there are those selfless individuals who do it to raise money and awareness for charities across the country (and the world), raising millions of pounds each year for many a good cause. Regardless of what group you fit into, the notion of increasing the challenge to include the additional layers that a costume can add seems crazy and yet there is no better way to get noticed out on the course. With the Greater Manchester and London marathons just around the corner, we thought we’d explore some of the considerations behind wearing a costume on race day.

Firstly, you will be running for a long time. Most mascot manufacturers will tell you that stopwatchthe maximum recommended time to wear a typical mascot costume without a break is approximately 30-45 minutes or shorter for more energetic performances. This helps prevent dehydration, overheating and general discomfort to the performer. Additional considerations to the character design should be made when running a long distance to ensure the safety of the competitor inside the costume. A costume suitable for running should adhere to the following points:

  • Lightweight
  • Well ventilated
  • Comfortable
  • Flexible and well fitted (Skin characters)
  • End above the Knee (Inanimate characters)

Running in a costume that does not address these simple points can be uncomfortable and ultimately unsafe; risking dehydration, fatigue and an endless amount of chafing for the person unlucky enough to wear it. The average time for completing a marathon (elites aside) is around the 4-hour mark so you can see why the well-being of the runner is paramount in all decisions regarding the manufacture of the costume.
Ambrosia PotFrom a makers’ perspective, there are a few additional considerations that can be made to assist in the comfort and safety of the runner. Amendments to a costume design to include additional vent holes throughout the character head, or open spacing where there would normally be a gauze layer (such as the mouth) all help to increase air circulation around the runner. We’ve even changed designs so that the head of the runner is visible if that is their preference.

Character feet are usually oversized and generally difficult to run long distances in. Spat style shoe covers in the style of your character can be made to go over running trainers, allowing you to compete without the concern of stumbling over or tripping up other competitors amongst other podiatric concerns.

Meryl lycra (or CoolMax) material can be used in place of heavy, warmer matPercy Pigerials like fleece or foam to keep the runner cool. Meryl lycra has moisture wicking properties and draws sweat away from the body to the outside of the material where it disperses into the air. This type of fabric is typically found in sportswear so is perfect for active costumes and a great choice for those running a marathon.

So now you’ve got a costume that fits correctly, is well ventilated and lightweight, what next? It would take someone very special to just go out there and run a marathon without any prior preparation, especially in a costume, so let’s have a look at the build-up to race day and what you should do to get yourself ready for the big event.

Pre-race training

marathon mile 20You should start your training well in advance of the event and build up towards running a longer distance each month. It’s not recommended that you run a full 26 miles in your training. There’s something quite unique about running with like-minded people in an exciting atmosphere that can’t be replicated in training and you’ll find the miles fly by at the event. Running 26.2 miles is difficult for your body to recover from and can have a negative effect on your training efforts so keep this for race day. Ensure that you run shorter distances regularly and you’ll see much more benefit.

Training to run as a costumed character will require some additional efforts to guarantee you have a safe race and the aim is to be prepared and to manage the expectations of what you can achieve in costume. No one is expecting you to smash your PB but they are expecting you to have fun and make it round the course in one piece. Here’s some advice to help you prepare for the challenge ahead.

Firstly, knowing a little about your character is essential. Turning up on the day to find out the costume is too big or too heavy is going to scupper your chances of completing the course. If you are planning to use your own costume then buy it as soon as you can. If it is a costume for a charity or company then speak to them and try to get access to the costume early. Sometimes this may not be possible due to prior engagements and if this is the case, get some details that will help you prepare. Size, weight and material are all important questions in your quest for preparedness and answers you should be able to get relatively easily. If you can get access to the costume then put it on and take it out for a short run to ensure that it feels comfortable and secure. Wearing it before the event will allow you to iron out any issues before it’s too late, such as ventilation and how hot it will get. Once you have an idea of how the costume feels to run in and have addressed any issues, you can then put it to one side until the actual event so as not to cause any damage or unnecessary wear and tear.

backpackNow you have an idea of how it feels to run as your character, you can start to adjust your training routine accordingly. Running with a backpack and gradually working up to the equivalent weight of your costume is a great way to prepare your body for the additional layers, allowing you to feel the difference that a few extra kilograms can add without the need to wear the costume and risk damaging it. This gives your body chance to adjust to the added strain and will make race day a much more pleasant experience. Remember not to push too hard and that completing a marathon in training is counterproductive to the end goal.

Another great tip is to train in warmer clothing. Most costumes will add layers and layers equal additional heat. Training in a thick jumper for example will allow your body to become accustomed to the raised temperature that you would expect to feel inside a costumed character. Fluids will vanish rapidly with the additional heat so get used to drinking plenty of water. A camel pack will ensure you have access to fluids throughout the race. This is especially important if your costume covers your face and makes it difficult to drink from a bottle or cup.

Race day

Hopefully by this point you’ve been training hard and are now as prepared as you can be for the gruelling run ahead. You’re on the start line and ready to set off down the course, dressed to the nine’s in a local charity’s cat costume and you’re raring to get the race underway. With most the hard work over, all you have to do now is complete the course and you’ll be a local hero. However, completing the course is easier said than done, especially wearing a mascot costume. Sure enough, the crowds and atmosphere will pull you along for some of the way but there are a few key pointers that will help get you to the finish line.

Ambrosia Man MarathonFirstly, start nearer to the back of the pack than you would do out of costume. At the back is where the slower competitors start but it’s also where a lot of the atmosphere is created. Serious runners will block out the crowds and strive to finish in as fast a time as possible. Your aim shouldn’t be that when dressed up. It should be about creating awareness for your chosen charity or brand, participating with the crowds and other competitors to give them a ‘show’ on the way round. Pace yourself correctly and you will achieve a respectable time but if your aim is to beat your PB then perhaps running in a costume isn’t for you.

Being dressed as a character is an open invitation for people to tell you what they think. Be it good or bad, expect comments from people throughout the event and try not to take the negative ones to heart. It takes a certain kind of someone to don a Costume and run 26 miles so much of what you will hear and see should build on an already amazing experience for you and those around you.

As mentioned in the pre-race section, your costume will become hot and you are likely to lose fluids faster than the average ‘naked’ runner. Drinking fluids regularly is paramount to staying safe throughout your run and is worth pointing out again. Short sips rather than big gulps should help to regulate your hydration more effectively and the simple rule is to only drink when you feel thirsty. That way you avoid the issues of both dehydration and over-hydration by listening to your body, which brings us nicely to our next point…

Percy Pig MarathonPlay it safe. If you start to feel unwell, or in pain then stop or take a break. There’s nothing more important than your health and if this is being challenged then there is no shame in pulling out. After all, if Paula Radcliffe can stop 22 miles into an Olympic event with an injury, then don’t feel bad about pulling up short of your target if you need to.

Lastly and most importantly, Enjoy yourself. When you’re out in the middle of the field and you’re getting some well-deserved cheers and applause from the spectators and other runners, that’s the time to really take it all in and seize the day. You’re doing something that not everyone can do so be proud. Take in the atmosphere and you’ll soon find that the miles fly by as you get caught up in the fun. You’re also part of the entertainment and it’s thanks to costumed characters like you that the event is enjoyable for other people to watch.

One more point for race day that I chose to mention last because it’s very important is that Vaseline (or equivalent lube) will become your best friend. Make sure you bring some with you to alleviate the pain of chafe. Not everyone suffers from it but there is no doubt that the addition of a costume increases the likelihood of this phenomenon occurring so plan-ahead and reduce the rub….

Post race

stamford marathonNow is the time to bask in the glory of your success. You’ve made it to the finish line and hopefully you’ve had a great time getting there. There’s no doubt that you’ll be feeling the strain of the course but the goal you have achieved is something to be very proud of. Take time to rest, take on fluids if you need them and make sure that you warm down thoroughly.

After you’ve had chance to recover, now comes the time to sort out your costume. If the costume is your own, follow the washing instructions and make sure you dry it thoroughly in a well-ventilated area. Spread the costume out so that it has chance to air and you’ll reduce the smell that damp can create for future uses. Charities and companies may not expect you to wash the costume as some will send it in for a professional wash and clean after each event, but to keep the costume in good shape make sure it is dry before packing it up again. We’ve seen (and smelt) the effects that damp can cause on a costume and it’s not very nice, especially if it’s you that has to put it on next.

Here at CWC we have plenty of experience in creating characters with running as a consideration and can help with designing the perfect costume for you or your organisation. We also offer a full professional character refurbishment service, so if your character crosses the line and comes back a bit whiffy, you know where to send it for a bit of TLC.

Hopefully this has given you some useful tips for the next or first time you decide to run in a costume. Be it marathon, 10K, 5K or Park Run, entering a character into the event is a fantastic way to raise awareness and become a sure-fire hit with the spectators. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, you will have one of the most entertaining races and who knows, you might even get the bug.

If you’d like advice, or would like to talk to us about creating a costume for your run, we’re only too happy to help.

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The power of a Pudsey: how a furry face can improve your fundraising finesse

Children In Need

With the BBC’s Children in Need just around the corner, reports are coming in that Pudsey Bear is once again being sighted around the UK. Lighting up charity events and shopping centres the length and breadth of the country, his golden fur and signature spotty eye patch all fresh and ready for a new season of telethon fund-raising, Pudsey can be seen shaking his bucket and ultimately at some point his behind, all in the name of raising money for a fantastic cause.

A brief history

CIN Old LogoChildren in Need was first televised in 1980. Prior to this, the BBC had several radio and televised charity events under various names with a similar aim: to change the lives of disabled children and young people across the UK. It wasn’t until 1985 that Pudsey Bear made his first televised appearance for the charity. Designed by BBC graphic artist Joanna Ball, Pudsey got his name from the town in which Joanna was born and her father was mayor. The first design was a triangular logo with a sad-looking yellow bear sporting a red bandana with black triangles dotted across it, who was loosely designed to look like Sooty (who had hosted previous telethon and charity events).
Pudsey LogoThe teddy bear, the lower case letters and phonetics in his name were all thoughtfully considered to ensure that the logo and sentiments behind it were conscientiously child- and adult-friendly. This simple design was updated a year later to the more popular smiling Pudsey with familiar white spotty bandana, sat upon children’s building blocks spelling the charity name, which would be used up until 2006. Initially, Pudsey was created as a teddy bear and it wasn’t until a few years later that the costume walk-about characters came on to the scene, allowing Pudsey’s reach to go further than ever before and for the cuddly character to get physically involved in the charities work.
CIN Latest Logo
In 2007, an agency was commissioned with giving Pudsey a refresh and the cuddly character was re-designed, losing his buttons and gaining a new multi-coloured bandana to bring him right up to date and to keep the yellow bear relevant in our ever changing world. Partly, the new design was to increase his internet appeal by considering his online presence and how the character would translate from the physical to the digital when gesturing and moving around on screen in animated form. Two years later Pudsey was joined by Blush, a female companion (just friends I believe) and brown bear sporting a spotty bow in the same colours as Pudsey’s bandana. Blush was conceived to increase the charities appeal and attract more corporate partners by diversifying the brand. Blush is also around to give Pudsey a hand from time to time by attending some of the fundraising events alongside him. All in the name of a good cause, the BBC’s Children in Need has raised over £650 million since its inception in 1980, with large thanks to Pudsey and the late, great Terry Wogan who, up until his death in 2016 had presented the show every year without fail (he backed out of presenting in 2015 due to ill health).pudsey and blush pose

This year sees a very special Children in Need Rocks concert that pays homage to the life and fundraising prowess of one of the nation’s most loved presenters. In true Terry style, all proceeds will go to the Children in Need charity he so dearly cherished. Here at CWC, we are extremely proud to be the ONLY official approved supplier of Pudsey and Blush bears to fundraisers across the UK and we do our part to ensure that each and every Bear that leaves our studio is finished perfectly and uses only the very best materials to ensure that whatever is thrown in Pudsey and Blush’s direction, they can fundraise and frolic without a care.

Mascots can make your charity money

For those of you who are considering using an existing character, or creating a new furry figurehead for your charity or business and would like to get involved with fundraising, then choosing a Mascot as your campaign ambassador is a clever move. Although there haven’t been many studies to show the impact of a charity mascot on Charitable donations, it’s well known that a bubbly brand ambassador can increase the amount of cash collected for a cause. The reasons for this are varied and I’m sure everyone has their opinion on what it is that makes a Mascot such an effective charity Spokes-character but here’s a few that I think are fundamentally important considerations as to the reason why.

st lukes hospiceFirstly, a mascot can be the anthropomorphic representation of a business or cause. As humans, we have a tendency to try and understand the world through animalistic association, often humanising, or giving a ‘personality’ to objects and things so that we can make sense of them and interact with them appropriately. It’s much easier to interact with a character than it is to make conversation with a brick wall as a very obvious example, so charities and businesses anthropomorphise their values and beliefs to make people more susceptible to interaction, and in turn, this makes the general public more likely to sympathise with the cause and dig that little bit deeper into their pockets.

A mascot character also strengthens the consumer awareness of a brand. Pudsey Bear is a fantastic example of this working for a charity. Exposure over many years has firmly cemented him as the Spokes-Character of Children in Need and he is very much a fundamental part of their fundraising drive. People quite simply love Pudsey. He’s as popular now as he has ever been, especially with Mac Mughis update and transition to the internet in 2007, increasing the reach of his charitable donations bucket to a worldwide audience. Now, you don’t even need to see the charity name to associate Pudsey with the Children in Need brand, he is that brand.

We, as members of the general public have also built an emotional connection with this loveable ambassador and his worthy cause, I mean who wouldn’t? The mission statement, the cuddly Characteristics and the Child-like glee of high fiving, or interacting with a giant Teddy Bear allows us to form a warm and positive opinion of the charity, trusting that the donations we are giving will be going to a very good cause. This model can be seen across many charities around the world, incorporating some form of Mascot as the ambassador for Millie's Trust Georgie and Geoffreytheir cause with the aim of maximising on donations.

Lastly a mascot is, for the most part, cute and cuddly. That in itself is more than enough to cause an emotional reaction in the general public and melt even the coldest heart. A lot of charity mascots are designed to remind us of soft toys and pets that we may have had when we were younger. ‘This nostalgic association evokes higher levels of emotion and donation intentions within the general public than charities without this connection’. Not my words, but the words of John B. Ford and Altaf Merchant from a study into the power of charitable appeals based on emotions and intentions conducted in 2010. So genuine scientific proof confirms that considerations in design to incorporate some aspect of nostalgia for the target audience will in fact affect the final total in a positive way.

Four ideas for your furry fundraising friend

Now we’ve discussed a couple of reasons why mascots increase charitable donations, backed up by a little bit of science right at the end, I think it would be unfair to give you all this information without giving you some ideas as to how you can use your character to fundraise for your chosen charity, so here’s a few ideas to spark your charitable creativity:

hope greggs1. Pounding the pavement
This is the tried and tested method of actually getting out there to busy shopping areas and town centres with your bucket in hand, using all of your Character charms to interact with the general public. You can dance with them, wave, hi-five, you name it but be careful not to get too carried away. Not everyone will be interested in playing along so make sure you judge the situation wisely. However, if you pick the right people, the donations will come pouring in. Especially if your character has built up a bit of a crowd with its antics. It’s also a great way to gain exposure in your local area. People will ask questions and some may even take photos or video, increasing your exposure should people upload their videos and photos to the world wide web. This last point is of course relevant for most activities simply because mascots aren’t something you see every day (unless you work for a mascot maker or are actually a mascot) and makes an interesting discussion topic.

harry2. Create a social media presence
Your character is the voice of your charity or business so why not give it some freedom to interact away from the confines of the physical using social media. You can use it as a platform to introduce your character, what the charity does and what events are happening that involve your Mascot, but in a way that doesn’t feel like a great big advert. Giving your character this platform allows it to create its own identity that people can associate and interact with in a way they couldn’t if it was just a general charity page. All of a sudden your character becomes an individual, with feelings and emotions that the public can relate to. As mentioned above, this anthropomorphic model of your charity will make people more susceptible to joining in, sharing, attending events and ultimately donating to your cause.

marty bear3. The spirit of Competition
A great way to spark interest and get people talking about your charity is with a competition. Why not contact schools, nursing homes and local businesses asking them to get involved in fundraising and offer the incentive that if they reach a certain total, they will get a visit from your character for a meet, greet and play session (for example). Alternatively, run a competition where the winners get a visit from your character to host an action packed activity day with all the proceeds from the event going to charity. If you ensure entry to the competition is something that everyone can do with minimal effort, you’ll find people more inclined to join in with the fun.

percy pig marathon

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Fur, sweat and tears: what it really takes to be a mascot

The mascot school

I recently re-discovered a video that I had watched a number of months ago about mascot culture in Japan. It focusses on a wonderful lady called Choko Oohira and her mascot school in Tokyo, where she teaches people from all walks of life on the fundamentals of performing as a mascot, and the rules you need to follow in order to maintain the true identity of the character you are portraying.

The energy and enthusiasm of the students and the passion Choko Oohira has for her job really is inspiring and a tad contagious… This short video really got me thinking; what does it ACTUALLY take to become a mascot? I mean anyone can physically put on a furry costume and ‘horse’ around, but what about those who consider it a profession, or those who are interested in becoming a successful mascot in the future? What do they do to stand out from the crowd (apart from wear a giant furry costume) and make it a performance to remember? It’s a lot more involved than you think…

 

Japanese mascot culture

As the capital of the Costume Character, we’ll start our journey in Japan (also because it fits in nicely with the introduction to this blog) where mascots play an important part in advertising the local culture… and practically anything else that could possibly have a mascot…ever.

There are various styles of mascot character in Japan and one of the most popular and more recent style of costume is Yuru-Chara. Yuru-Chara mascots are created to promote local areas of interest, cities, regions, businesses or events. They are characterised by a combination of cuteness, unrefined designs and accessories or features depicting local produce, culture or landmarks. Yuru-Chara mascots are big business in Japan (a $16billion industry and growing) and many of them have their own merchandise, anime series and are known globally like the ever popular Kumamon, who was created by the Kumamoto Prefecture (region/district) to draw tourists to the area. Yuru-Chara costumes have their own specific rules to adhere by. These are:

  1. It must convey a strong message of love for one’s hometown or local region
  2. The character’s movements or behaviour should be unique and unstable or awkward
  3. The character should be unsophisticated or laid-back (yurui) and lovable

These 3 simple rules define how these characters are made and how they perform in public. In order to become a Yuru-Chara character mascot, you must be able to abide by these rules and perform within the boundaries of these statements. It takes a lot of determination and creativity to be energetically awkward, lovable and unique in your movements but that can be the make or break of a good performance. Although specific to Yuru-Chara, these rules start to form the basis of what it takes to be a good mascot; entertaining, individual and passionate for the cause.

Mascots across the globe

So let’s leave Japan and talk more generally about mascots across the globe. Playing the part of a Costumed Character is hard, hot and tiring work but ultimately very rewarding if it is done right. Being the centre of attention, all eyes are on your character and it is important to protect the identity of the brand you are portraying. A code of conduct should keep you in line with the core values and beliefs of a brand character, but even without one, a little bit of common sense will keep your character within the ethical boundaries and context of an event. For example, a mascot could act differently at a corporate meet and greet to how it would act a children’s party (although we’re all just big kids really!) and should tailor its performance to suit the audience. Being astute, having the ability to assess a situation and adapt are important factors of a successful performance.

Interaction with an audience also demands a lot of respect from the performer, knowing when to push and when to back off can be a little tricky to read in a big furry costume with limited visibility but this consideration should always be in the back of the performers mind. Playing a joke is only funny when everyone is laughing. Some people can feel self-conscious when being ‘laughed at’ and as a mascot, you need to be aware of this so you can quickly deflect a situation or focus on something/someone else to avoid embarrassing or hurting anyone’s feelings.

A lot of mascot wearers are volunteers, helping out a local cause by turning up and entertaining the crowd. It’s a well-known fact that having a costumed character turn up to a charity event actually increases the amount of donations given by the public but it takes a very special type of person to give up a day of their time to stand in a hot and heavy costume for a good cause. This leads me to my final trait of what it actually takes to be a mascot and in my opinion it’s up there at the top of the list. That important trait is that of a big heart. I personally have nothing but respect for the people that volunteer time to help out local causes with nothing but the satisfaction that they are doing their bit for the cause and with no other payment than a thank you for a job well done….

What it REALLY takes

So, just to re-cap, here’s what I believe it takes to be a good mascot:

  • Be entertaining
  • Be individual
  • Be passionate
  • Be astute
  • Be adaptable
  • Be respectful
  • Have a big heart.

Now a lot of you will notice that I have purposefully avoided talking about the usual physical traits that you see in every other article about how to ‘wear’ a mascot and how to ‘act like a mascot’ etc etc. I can send you a checklist if that’s what you want to know and if you follow it, you’ll learn the basic moves and become a competent mascot wearer. This article isn’t about that. It’s about the type of person and the mental attitude that it takes to become a successful costumed character and ultimately create successful character performances. I believe that the physical side of wearing a costume character can be learnt by just about anyone. Exaggerating your movements, keeping quiet, warming up are all things that can be taught at places like Choko Oohira’s mascot school in Tokyo, but what sets People like Choko Oohira and many other mascot wearers apart is the infectious mental attitude, passion and enthusiasm that spills out of their performance.

A big thank you!

We at Costumes with Character would like to say thanks to you the performer, the beating heart of our industry and the reason why mascots are more popular today than they have ever been. It’s because of your hard work that we’re still in business 30 years on….

If you feel inclined, please have a look through our gallery of costumes and remember that behind every amazing mascot is an equally amazing wearer.

You can visit our costume gallery here.

Video credit to Great Big Story.

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World Cup Willie: fifty years of fun on the field

Mascots have been an important part of sporting events for what seems like forever. An integral tool in the marketing of an event, a mascot personifies traditions and highlights positive attributes for a host nation at a World Cup for example, or local team, giving public identity to a community and bringing an element of fun into the proceedings.

These costumed characters also facilitate the creation of merchandise, enabling manufacturers of memorabilia to focus on a character when creating a plethora of products to sell on or around the event in question.

Bringing good luck

It’s true, mascots have been around for a very long time (not literally forever but not far off) and the term derives from 1880’s France. Initially, a mascot (or mascotte as it was known across the pond) was anything that was deemed to bring luck into your house or on board your ship and was usually an inanimate object. It could have been a locket of hair, a key or anything that the person felt would increase their luck with its presence. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s that ‘good luck’ animals became a regular fixture at sporting events across the globe.

The first animal mascots were escorted to local events in order to entertain the crowd and in some cases, to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition. These weren’t the cuddly characters you see today; tGeorge Tirebiterhese were the real deal. Lions, tigers, bears, dogs, pigs, horses and birds of prey were all used by sporting clubs and instantly became a popular feature with the audience, who would cackle and hoot at the escapades of the animal and its trainer as they were paraded around the stadium. There was however something missing. That something was a unique identity and a charismatic personality. OK, now I can already hear you all saying (and I agree) that animals do have personalities, but have you ever seen a cat, bear or any other animal react to the cheers of a crowd and respond by ramping up the excitement? The only reaction I have seen is that of shock and running away when my cat is confronted with any loud noise….

Willie is a winner

WillieSo fast forward to the 1960’s and to one of, if not the FIRST costumed character at a MAJOR sporting event; World Cup Willie. Designed by Reg Hoye (who illustrated some of Enid Blyton’s books) for the 1966 World Cup, Willie was the personification of the proud British spirit. The stocky little Lion, sporting a full Union Jack football kit and boots could be seen everywhere during the competition, invoking national pride into the people of England and cheering the lads on from the sidelines. A full range of merchandise was created to compliment the character and the notion of modern day sporting memorabilia was defined. Nowadays, memorabilia has grown to become one of the most important sources of income for a club or competition. The significance of World Cup Willie did not go unnoticed by other countries, who started to realise the potential of such a character and soon even West Germany and the Soviet Union were joining in with the fun. 1966 was the first and last year that England won the World Cup. Whether or not Willie had anything to do with it I’ll let you decide….

Mascots march on

It’s been 50 years, almost to the day since people flooded through the turnstiles to watch the first game of the competition and mascots have had a place at almost every major sporting event since. Every top flight football game, baseball game, athletics event, social gathering you name it, has some form of mascot character evoking the spirit of competition and ultimately maximising the revenue streams before, during and long after the celebration has died down. By this time, corporate businesses had already begun to embrace the idea and were designing characters to personify their core business ideals. This proved to be just as successful off the pitch and recognisable characters feature prominently in our day-to-day lives, sometimes even without you noticing them. Some great examples of company mascots that you are sure to know are Geoffrey the Giraffe (Toys R US) who has been around since the 60’s, Ronald MacDonald (arguably the most well-known character of all time), Tony the Tiger, Mickey Mouse and the Michelin Tyre Man to name a few but I digress…

Modern day magic

From their humble beginnings to the mascot of modern day, the complexity of sporting mascots has increased with the advancement of technology, allowing mascots to be more lifelike, or even more outrageous than was previously thought possible. Take for example London 2Wenlock and Mandeville012’s very own Wenlock and Mandeville. Gone are the humanoid shapes that were once the staple mascot style, only to be exchanged with weird and wonderful body types as you see in the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic mascots. Although ultimately criticized for their wacky shapes, Wenlock and Mandeville were a large reason for the success of the London Olympics and brought in millions of pounds of revenue with their merchandise, only being surpassed by the sale of the GB team kit. One disadvantage of this body style is maneuverability and top flight sporting clubs prefer to stick to a humanoid body shape so that their characters can race around the pitch, egging on or poking fun at the crowd, coaches and players alike.

Fred and his Friends

Now, we know a thing or two about creating the perfect mascot. Be it for your club, event, corporation or whatever reason you decide, we work closely with some of the country’s biggest sporting clubs to provide them with the ultimate side-line entertainers. Take for example, Fred the Red – the official Manchester United mascot. I pick this example (without any club bias) because it fits in nicely with our article. Due to the success of World Cup Willie, Reg Hoye was asked to draw the original Manchester United Red Devil mascot, which can still be seen on the badge today. A far cry from the current Fred the Red character seen gracing the pitch at match days, United saw the importance of having a brand identity and became the Red Devils to coincide with their badge re-design. 1994 saw the first live version of Fred appear and he instantly became a firm favourite with the fans at Old Trafford and is just as popular today. We’ve been making Fred the Red for over 10 years and he joins the likes of Moonchester (Manchester City), Rover (Blackburn Rovers), Stamford (Chelsea), Deepdale (Preston NE) and many others in our Costumes with Character Sporting Hall of Fame.Football mascots

All for a good cause

I think it’s also worth mentioning that sports mascots aren’t just for the entertainment of the crowd or for lining the pockets of their local club/governing body, they are also a great tool in raising money and awareness for local and national charities. Clubs up and down the country lend their mascots to good causes because they know the effect that these characters can have on the final fundraising total, with studies claiming a mascot can increase the total amount of money donated to a charity when out and about with a bucket. One thing can be sure, the introduction of Willie and mascots in general at major sporting events across the world has been a positive thing and even in this digital age of computer illustrations and virtual characters, the physical performer still very much has its place at the sporting table and will continue to do so for many years to come.

You can view our range of sporting mascots here

 

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Making your mascot masterpiece – three design considerations

We discuss 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.

Business Insider article on brand mascot design

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.

snap-crackle-and-pop-cleanOne 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.

Personality

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.

sad duckOne 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.

CreeperOf 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

harrods meerkatCustomising 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.

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.

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Six degrees of Welephant

I think it’s fair to say that a large portion of the UK population has heard of Welephant. When someone recently mentioned it to me, I couldn’t help but smile and drift off on a wave of nostalgia about the first time he came to my school.

6 Degrees of Separation

 

The lesson was fire safety and more importantly, how to use a fire alarm correctly. The impact of this big red elephant in his shiny yellow fire helmet was a sure fire reason why my house was safely guarded from combustible hazards and that my smoke alarm battery was regularly tested (much to the annoyance of my parents). Still in use today, Welephant is now the mascot ambassador for The Children’s Burn Trust and an iconic figure in the history of the costume character.

Welephant Shopping WEB

Welephant came to life in 1978 when the Greater Manchester Fire Service ran a children’s competition to design a character to teach young people about fire safety. A 14-year-old girl entered the competition with a big red elephant sporting a yellow helmet, black boots and a fire axe. The name she gave him was Welephant. As a clear winner, the GM Fire Service adopted Welephant and children across the North West began to learn of his existence. The big friendly elephant proved to be a successful acquisition for the GM Fire service who founded The Welephant Club for children in 1984. Being inundated with club applications, other fire departments across the country heard of its success and began to adopt the red elephant for use in their own district. Welephant went nationwide!

1st Welephant

 

By 1986, the first Welephant mascots were being manufactured right here in Manchester by Liz Milnes, founder of Situation Clothing (now Costumes with Character) and were deployed across the country for fire departments to use, promoting fire safety within schools and at family events throughout the eighties, nineties and early noughties. Costumes with Character still produce Welephant mascots to this day, albeit with a few minor adjustments to bring him trumpeting into the 21st century but he is still the same cuddly and conscientious elephant he has always been.

 

So where do the six degrees of separation come in? We’ve all heard the theory that everyone is connected to everything by six steps or less (3.5 steps if you’re a Facebook user) and Welephant is no different. Whether it was on a school visit, or at a local event, someone you know will have a story or have at least had an encounter with Welephant over the last few decades. Here at Costumes with Character, most of us have a story to tell that dates back to childhood, or to when our children were young.

 

Take for example Welephant and AlisonAlison Dermott. Alison was just a young girl when she first encountered Welephant during a firework safety campaign. Being a talented individual even at that age, Alison shone brighter than the other children and won a colouring competition, resulting in some fantastic prizes and the opportunity for a photo with the iconic elephant. It didn’t stop there, Alison’s mum even wore the costume throughout the nineties in the school that she worked for, using it to teach local children the principles of fire safety. Little did Alison know that when she joined the team at Costumes with Character, Welephant would once again charge into her life.

 

Now I’m almost sure you’re sat reading this article with a smile on your face. Not because of my witty wordsmanship or carefully crafted sentences, but because you are remembering your first encounter with the popular figurehead of fire safety. Be it at school, at a summer fete or even in front of a supermarket, Welephant has popped up everywhere and has helped spread the message that fire can be dangerous to children across the country for over 30 years. Here at Costumes with Character, we are proud to have made this mascot since its inception and will hopefully do so for many years to come.