Brand Mascots: Ronald McDonald Rules Thanks to Taco Bell Campaign


A successful mascot can make or break a brand. More than a marketing tool, brand characters can offer priceless longevity and recognition. Well before brands began engaging consumers with Twitter and Facebook, mascots were a key part of forging the humanization of corporations. Today, they are still used as an anchor for many a product and company’s campaigns, outreach and overarching narrative.

But not all mascots are created equal. Striking the right balance of timely and timeless while crafting a strong notion of personality and coining a catchy jingle or pithy tagline to solidify its presence in the consumer’s mind is no easy feat.

Why and how are some just a flash in the pan—or worse, an ongoing PR nightmare—while others become cultural phenomena or make the Madison Avenue Walk of Fame?[more]

As Business Insider reports, the ones that tend to be most popular are the ones that help people understand and remember one or more of the following brand elements: name, benefit, product, target audience, and relationship.

Amobee Brand Intelligence studied the 15 most “seen” mascots via mobile and across social between September 2013 and September 2014, and its researchers found that Ronald McDonald still rules.

Most of his buzz was generated in March (when Taco Bell gathered real people named Ronald McDonald for a new breakfast menu campaign) and again in April, when McDonald’s gave the 51-year-old mime a makeover that got rid of his overalls.

But according to the study, the character is so ubiquitous that even if those two stories hadn’t happened, he’d still be the mascot with the most “consumption.”

Rounding out the study’s top five are mascots that share also share the commonality of being the brand name (noted with gray bars in the infographic): Betty Crocker, Chuck E. Cheese, Uncle Ben, and Mr. Clean.

That’s not surprising, but it does make the mascots who made this list without that advantage—Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome, or the US Forest Service’s classic Smokey Bear—stand out even more.

The next highest-ranking mascot is the Energizer Bunny, which is fascinating given its origin as a parody of the preexisting Duracell Bunny back in 1989.

25 years later, the parody is clearly still going stronger than the original, with 5,991% more consumption than the Duracell Bunny this past year, according to Amobee. While Duracell still uses the Bunny campaign outside America, it’s now nonexistent in the US.

While growth and flexibility are musts, compromising on core brand values is a big no-no. As long as the concept is evergreen, room will exist for appropriate changes that keep a brand fresh while maintaining the presence of a product or company’s essential mission.

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[Images via McDonald’s, Amobee]


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