The blog

Discover smart tips, personal stories and our take on the latest marketing trends
21 December 2015

Can purple cows, bunnies, human-like characters and actors save your brand?

Who doesn’t feel cheerful after watching the ads by Milka featuring a purple milk cow, or Mr Clean’s muscular and tanned handy man, Energizer’s restless bunny or Nespresso’s seductive and well-known actor, George Clooney? And these are just a few examples of brands that have successfully used a personalized character or well-known figure as brand ambassador.


Associating a unique character to your brand can translate into a number of significant advantages.

First of all, it increases your brand awareness. In today’s connected world, consumers are overwhelmed by information and have become quite hard to reach as a result. When they chase consumers’ attention, most companies focus their efforts on content marketing rather than visuals and animations, although these can be very powerful and make your audience remember you. This is due to the way the human brain assimilates and recalls information. A lasting memory is built in the brain through meaning and associations. The most easily remembered information is the one that triggers personally meaningful associations or has a high emotional significance because we can associate it with something we know already or have experienced ourselves. This is why we remember stories or real-life examples so well.

Secondly, consumers become more inclined to buy your product if it appeals to them in a personal way. Emotions then come into play and consumers can feel emotionally attached to your brand. Through this emotional bond, consumers can more easily identify themselves and therefore attribute greater added value to your products.

Your brand ambassador can also easily leverage your presence on social media. That’s because your customers are more likely to engage with you online and promote your brand within their community whenever your online communication features your brand ambassador. With this in mind, entertaining storytelling videos and inventive contests are the two most common options used nowadays by companies to create an online buzz; the Facebook M&M’s Belgium page is a successful example of this. You should also not hesitate to take a model of your brand ambassador out to retail outlets or to the events that you are sponsoring. Many of your brand fans will be thrilled to take a selfie of themselves posing next to the ambassador’s image. I am sure that there are plenty of other unexplored possibilities. La Vache Qui Rit, for example, invites its fans to play games on Facebook. And I look forward to seeing which other brands will manage to stand out online through various, more innovative online communication techniques.

Though, for your brand character to effectively translate into positive business results, there are several elements you should pay attention to.


1. Be consistent with your brand identity

Choosing your brand character is one of the most important decisions you will take. The outlook and personality traits of this mascot will have a defining influence on the perception of your customers. Your brand positioning and identity will need to fully resonate in everyone’s mind when watching this figure; the same way, for example, as happens for Nespresso when viewers watch an ad featuring George Clooney. Easier said than done, right? Well, a first step in this process would be to formulate the human characteristics you want to give to your brand. To this end, Ayesha Matthews from Forbes suggests a list of very insightful questions you could ask yourself:


  • What do you want your audience to see or feel when they connect with your brand?
  • If your brand were a car/ magazine/ public personality/ music genre, what would it be?
  • What colours, textures and visual components do you connect strongly with when you think of your brand
  • What is your brand’s ‘sweet spot’?
  • What are some of the words that come to mind when people think/see your brand?

Please note that your brand character does not substitute the brand purpose you are devoted to. Both your corporate social responsibility aspirations and your brand ambassador are very important purchasing consideration factors for your customers. They are complementary. The latest post of Ben & Jerry’s about COP 21 is a very good example that shows how powerful this combination can be.


2. Think of the future

Your mascot should remain a valid representation of your brand throughout the years it is used – especially if you aim to build top-of-mind brand awareness. It should not be replaced or conflict with your fundamental values at any time. Otherwise, the risk is that you will only succeed in confusing your customers’ perception and start losing their sympathy or interest. So, be very cautious therefore if you are choosing a celebrity or public figure as the spokesperson of your brand. Not only is it an expensive option in the long-term, but it could also put your brand in a delicate situation the day that person ends up facing some personal issues, or is found to be dishonest or acts in a way that the public will disapprove of.


3. From reactive to proactive

Make sure your mascot plays a proactive role in all your communication initiatives if you want to keep capturing your customers’ attention and build a durable personal connection with them. Your character is intended to become the active voice of your brand. It should help you build an engaging and dynamic dialogue with your customers thanks to human-like storytelling. Through their interactions your customers should able to identify themselves with your brand figure. For instance, you could surely take inspiration from Michelin and its Bibendum. For truck drivers it’s a real honour to have the Bibendum in their cab. Mc Donald’s and its clown, Ronald McDonald, on the contrary, is not a good example to follow. This mascot has regrettably been used in too a passive way, mostly for in-store print advertising, and has now completely disappeared from the group’s strategy.


In short, associating a character or spokesperson to your brand certainly is a powerful marketing technique for any company that is seeking to strengthen its brand capital in today’s fast-paced environment. The success of this technique greatly depends on the level of synergy you are able to create between your brand ambassador’s personality and your customers’ identity. The greater the emotional bond between these two the stronger your brand value. Now there is only question left: “who” is your brand meant to be? Best of luck!