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Mascots Make a Comeback Thanks to Social Media

Posted by Mark J. Miller on March 26, 2012 04:02 PM

When M&M’s Ms. Brown appeared on TV screen during the Super Bowl, she represented a whole new resurgence for brand mascots. They may seem retro, but branded characters and icons are making a comeback because, as the Wall Street Journal reporter Suzanne Vranica points out above, who wants to talk to a logo?

While mascots took off in the 1950s, the use of icons had fallen out of favor in recent years ... but that was before Twitter and Facebook. Mr. Clean, for instance, has 277,000 fans via his Facebook page. The latest example: a new ad campaign by StubHub, which is using a talking tree as its mascot.

"(Mascots are) the gift that keeps on giving," said Carol Phillips, president of consulting group Brand Amplitude, according to Ad Age. "They never get in trouble with the law. They don't up their fees. You can use them for a long, long time." Now, to drive engagement and create hooks for online video and branded entertainment, "the web is going to [bring] a heyday for creating new characters and stories," she added.

As Ad Age points out, there are some brand mascots, such as the Michelin Man and Aunt Jemima, that have been around for more than 100 years, but the heyday of the brand mascot came in the ’50s and ’60s when such folks as Tony the Tiger and the Pillsbury Doughboy were created by Leo Burnett. 

That's why last year Kraft Foods’ Planters introduced Peanut Butter Doug, who is the stunt double for Mr. Peanut whenever any kind of actual violence is involved (such as being smushed), but is only found on Mr. Peanut’s Facebook page, where he “rents space,” Ad Age reports.

"It's the perfect audience to get a sense of ‘Is this thing working?’” said Scott Marcus, senior brand manager for Planters, Ad Age reports.

Another brand from Kraft, Milkbite granola bar, has a puppet mascot named Mel, who “posts regular video diaries on the brand's Facebook page and YouTube, including a recent entry in which he joins an art-therapy group to work through his ‘existential crisis,’” Ad Age notes. Whatever works.

What’s working, apparently, are mascots. They’re accessible and fun for consumers. This has led, Ad Age notes, to the return and redesign of some mascots that haven’t gotten that much attention in recent years, such as StarKist’s Charlie the Tuna, Alka-Seltzer's Speedy, and, of course, the introduction of M&M’s Ms. Brown, who appeared on The Celebrity Apprentice, and boasts her own channel on Pandora. And powerhouse agent, we assume.

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