Are Mascots Good for Business?
Colorful mascots can breathe life into a simple corporate identity. These mascots can be animals, people, or personified objects.
The goal is to build trust and brand recognition with a mascot that can be attached to everything from commercials to business cards.
In the past, we’ve shared examples of logos with mascots but we never went into detail about design strategies. In this post, I’d like to cover some tips on how you can use mascots to create memorable visuals and breathe life into a design.
The first and most important quality of a mascot should be recognition. Every brand should be quick to recognize even in writing.
But with visuals you can create an easy-to-recognize logo just using a lovable mascot. Think about Tony the Tiger or Captain Crunch, both tied to cereals from popular food brands.
The logos themselves are big and colorful but the characters really make the cereal jump off the shelf.
When you create a mascot for a brand it should be easy to recognize. It does not need to be ornate or super detailed.
But the character should have a sense of life. This is what makes the mascot feel true to the brand, and it’s why people connect with the visual.
If people can believe that your mascot is “real” then the experience and connection to your brand will be just as real.
Another fun example is Mrs. Butterworth’s because it connects the mascot with the product.
When people look for maple syrup at the grocery store they’ll instantly connect Mrs. Butterworth’s syrup with the shape of the bottle.
This marketing strategy can also build connections in people’s heads so they always remember the name. People might think “what’s the name of that syrup shaped like a woman?”
The answer to a recognizable mascot isn’t direct or clear-cut. It’s also different for every product.
But you should get a gut feeling with a mascot design that just feels right. If it can feel alive and breathe personality into the brand then you know you’re on the right track.
It’s not always necessary to brand the entire company with a mascot. Sometimes it’s easier to create mascots for individual products within a company.
These mascots help sell the products but they don’t always connect to the parent company. This can be a good thing if the company owns a lot of products, or if they produce many different things that each deserve their own brand.
Both products are similar but the two mascots help distinguish between them.
Zurb as a company doesn’t have a mascot. But these product mascots can be a source of pride for the Zurb brand.
And it’s nice to have products that include branded mascots but don’t rely on them. Take for example McDonald’s which uses the golden arches for their logo.
But they also have Ronald McDonald as their ongoing mascot for decades. They even had an older mascot named Mac Tonight for marketing their late-night hours. This turned into a meme and it’s a great example of how smaller mascots can relate to just one part of a larger brand.
Every product is different so the value of a mascot changes based on whatever you’re creating. Take time to consider how much a mascot should affect each product and how necessary it is for a great brand design.
Breathing Life Into a Logo
Companies with mascots can feel more “alive” and even more fun. When a brand feels alive it makes the company, and their products, much more attractive to most consumers.
Most of the time the best mascots are overdramatized people or animals and this character can be used in billboards, print, or video.
And some mascots don’t even have to be original!
Think about Owens Corning insulation which is often associated with the Pink Panther.
They pay for the rights to use the Pink Panther which draws attention to their company. The brand “Owens Corning” is far from a household name. But the Pink Panther is something that everyone recognizes.
Another example is MetLife which has used Snoopy from Peanuts for over 30 years.
However, it turns out they’re dropping Snoopy in an upcoming brand redesign. Whether this will damage their brand is yet to be seen.
Either way they’ve built notoriety as a company using the Peanuts characters for their marketing, and it seems to have paid off.
Both of these companies are tough names and they’re both in very non-consumer-facing industries. Using relatable characters is a great strategy to drive sales and build recognition without trying to create a whole new mascot from scratch.
Just don’t assume that it’s impossible to do this on your own. A great mascot always stands out and sometimes it’s better to create that yourself.
One example is the Energizer Bunny: pink, fun, and quick to recognize.
This mascot doesn’t take up too much attention. But it does catch your eye and it’s the perfect metaphor to show how Energizer batteries just keep going.
Favicons and Theming
Another area where you’ll see mascot branding is with digital theming and design. This may include websites but also ties into print-like letterheads or business cards.
A great mascot does not need to be universally recognized. My example of Zurb’s yeti creature is far from recognizable in every home. But it’s recognized by people in the industry which is all that really matters.
Website favicons are saved in bookmarks and they plaster every tab in your web browser. A great favicon design is always guaranteed when you have a mascot. I like the simple example on Speckyboy that uses the two eyes in the logo.
This isn’t exactly a mascot, but it feels like one and creates the idea of bespectacled human eyes representing the website.
You can find another example on Captain Icon which uses a superhero vector for the mascot. It can be seen in various places on the site and the favicon uses a small head vector icon.
For overall theming you can take a branded mascot into a website’s header, footer, sidebar, or anywhere else on the site. For example, the Captain Icon guy can be found everywhere on that page.
The design blog Design Bolts uses a character mascot in the logo, but he can also be found on their Twitter page header banner.
Get creative with your mascot and be willing to parade it around everywhere. This is the basis of marketing and the more your character is seen the more it can be used to represent your website.
So much goes into a creative branding strategy that it’d be impossible to cover everything here. But mascots are one huge step and they shouldn’t be overlooked as just cute cartoons.