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
Children 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).
The 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.
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).
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.
Firstly, 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 his 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 their 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:
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.