Celebrities have long been used to endorse products by portraying benefits and building an image for companies and products. Think of all the famous athletes and stars who endorse products – Jeremy Lin, Michael Phelps, Venus Williams, Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Roger Federer and more illustrate this approach to marketing. But celebrities also carry risks – consider the fall-out from Tiger Woods’ fall from grace several years ago. How can companies avoid the risks of celebrities? By using mascots or “spokes characters” to portray a product’s brand values and attractiveness.
Brand mascots are regaining their allure with marketing campaigns. They can be portrayed as charming, sophisticated, caring, humorous, and even sexy. They are controllable and relatively risk-free. The mascots also have mass merchandising potential, lending their likenesses to t-shirts, lunch boxes, cartoons, ads, mugs, and other merchandise. A recent addition to the mascot list is Ms. Brown for M&Ms. The sexy chocolate drop has appeared in commercials and on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” as well as promoting her own music channel on Pandora.
Group Activities and Discussion Questions:
- 1. Discuss the use of endorsements for promoting products.
- How do companies use these characters?
- Why are mascots desirable for marketing?
- 2. Have students name all the mascot characters they can think of in one minute.
- Hints: Mr. Peanut, M&Ms, Pillsbury Dough Boy, Michelin Man, Charlie the Tuna, Captain Morgan, etc.
- 3. Show students the following videos to illustrate use of mascots:
- WSJ Video on characters: http://youtube/g7sh.4MvBX1U
- Stub Hub: http://youtu.be/XwUlWpacmEA
- Planters: http://youtu.be/0YyznIxqXV8
- Kraft: http://youtu.be/JVeXN8PiVl0
- M & Ms: http://youtu.be/TREc_gXtZcw
- 4. Have students develop a new mascot for a product.
- What is involved?
- What factors needs to be considered?
- How can the mascot be used in marketing and promotion?
Source: Wall Street Journal, 3/26/12; Ad Age Daily, 3/26/12