A few weeks ago, Chester Cheetah, the beloved “spokescat” for Cheetos, joined Twitter as @ChesterCheetah with a campaign to reach 50K followers. And when he does, “a family gets a kitten.” Chester Cheetah is just the latest of many brand mascots that have taken social media by storm in recent years. Furthermore, digital media is allowing brands to create more developed story lines and detailed backgrounds for their mascots, resulting in consumers becoming more drawn to the characters, and, of course, to the brand and product they represent. The insurance industry has made quite a splash with its brand mascots, including the GEICO Gecko and Allstate’s “Mayhem,” launching YouTube channels and earning verified Twitter accounts (i.e., celebrity status). Creating such humorous and quirky characters allows insurance companies to engage with consumers and help them better understand the complex insurance offerings, while also staking a claim in the competitive insurance landscape.
Take Progressive’s “Flo,” the now infamous female insurance broker who dominates the company’s commercials. Known for her humor and larger-than-life personality, Flo is the same way on Twitter – posting witty one-liners and tips on insurance topics of interest, things making the news, and Progressive Insurance offerings and updates. She has over 19K followers on Twitter and more than 5 million “likes” on Facebook; Progressive’s Facebook page only has 58,000 “likes”. Flo is featured in many YouTube videos and has led social games and giveaways through Facebook and Twitter.
The Way I See It
- I see online and social media allowing brands to further develop characters and brand mascots to be more than just the face of the brand, but standalone, likeable characters. They have colored histories, interests, and well-defined traits. Brands have found success in fully developing their mascots, as consumers are more likely to engage with and like more complex characters.
- I see companies taking risks with brand mascots on social media, as it allows them to test how consumers respond to initiatives without making too much of an investment. For instance, M&M’s sassy Ms. Brown held a live video chat with Facebook fans and even has her own Pandora music-streaming channel, both of which take the traditional social media campaign one step further.
- While other brands and industries often opt for celebrities and athletes to be brand ambassadors and spokespeople, such as Pepsi with Beyoncé and Keds with Taylor Swift, insurance companies have embraced brand mascots over the years and have seen great success in doing so. Take GEICO, for instance – the GEICO Gecko is one of the most recognizable ad characters from recent years and the GEICO Cavemen were such a hit that they almost had their own TV series on a major network. The larger-than-life personalities serve to make complex and dry insurance concepts more humorous, entertaining, and simplified for every consumer.
- I see industries beginning to take brand mascots to new social media communities, such as Pinterest, Vine, and Vimeo, to boost consumer engagement and stay ahead of the trend. With the continued growth and popularity of mobile, we may see brands soon venturing into apps and other mobile interfaces for brand mascots to engage with consumers on other platforms.