Brand Mascots: A Powerful Strategic Tool for Kid-Targeted Innovation
Brands spend an immense amount of time and money getting a new product to market, so it’s critical to give each launch its best shot at success. And if that new launch is targeted to kids or young families, a brand mascot can be an important part of the equation.
While many people just think of brand mascots as cute little characters, they’re actually powerful strategic tools capable of helping a new launch get off to a fast start—and achieve sustained prosperity.
With that in mind, here are 6 concrete benefits brand mascots can deliver to help propel your next kid-targeted innovation.
1. Brand mascots help communicate important brand and product attributes.
Brand mascots are a great way to help kids and parents quickly and easily grasp what makes your product uniquely appealing. Just identify your most important features, benefits and points of difference and use them as inspiration to develop a mascot that expresses them. For example, look at how Kellogg’s uses Snap, Crackle and Pop to reinforce the unique sound that Rice Krispies makes in milk, and how M&Ms leverages its “spokescandies” to communicate the brand’s unique colors and fun personality.
If you’re looking for a shortcut, you can always explore licensing a known character that fits the personality and key attributes of your new product/brand. But it’s usually better in the long run to build your own equity rather than to borrow it.
2. Brand mascots let kids know that a product is for them—and that they will enjoy it.
Characters that look like the ones kids see in their favorite books, movies and games let them know that a product is made for people their age. This draws their attention and gives them reassurance that they’ll like it.
And while it’s feasible to develop mascots that appeal to a broader age range of kids, it’s also possible—and more effective—to tailor your design to smaller, more targeted age groups. Just remember that younger kids are drawn to characters with round, soft features like the ones in Mickey Mouse, Paw Patrol and Peppa Pig (this preference is rooted in childhood psychology, as young kids have learned that soft things are safe to play with, while things with sharp, pointy edges can hurt) and tweens are generally drawn to more angular characters like the ones in Phineas and Ferb and Teen Titans Go!.
3. Brand mascots help supplement smaller advertising budgets.
Some marketers and innovators believe that developing a brand mascot doesn’t make sense if their brand won’t have a large ad budget to support the new product it represents. But this is precisely when using a mascot can be even MORE important—and beneficial. As mentioned above, mascots can communicate who the product is for and what it’s all about in a quick, memorable way kids can understand. This means mascots can help achieve some of the same objectives as traditional advertising, without a huge investment in a full-scale campaign.
Even if kids aren’t seeing the product and character in advertising, there’s a good chance they will see it while shopping with a parent or observe it in the hands of a friend or classmate. And the presence of a mascot will ensure the product has a better chance of catching their attention and getting the key message across when they do.
4. Brand mascots boost the recall and effectiveness of advertising.
If you count yourself among one of the fortunate few that’s blessed with a large ad budget, mascots can help you get even more out of your communication efforts. That’s because mascots act like visual mnemonic devices that boost the memorability of your product. Most kids have great memories and when they see a mascot on-pack, it immediately reminds them of the advertising they saw and reinforces the messaging they took away from it.
5. Brand mascots build brand loyalty.
Mascots can take what’s normally a transactional consumer-brand relationship and elevate it to an emotional level. Mascots humanize a brand, giving it a personality that draws people in (i.e., increases brand engagement) and makes them feel stronger about it. Importantly, a mascot provides an empathetic, relatable connection that increases loyalty (and all-important repeat purchases) and helps insulate against competitive threats. Studies even show that this loyalty can remain entrenched into adulthood, at a time when people start shopping for their own families.
6. Mascots help facilitate kid requests.
Many years ago, I worked on advertising and innovation for ConAgra’s Kid-Cuisine frozen meals, which had an adorable penguin mascot named KC. While the ads featuring KC definitely appealed to the 5–7-year-olds in the target, having the mascot on-pack was also super effective at generating kid requests from 3–4-year-olds. Many kids this age accompany their parents on grocery shopping trips. So, they would be riding in the shopping cart, and as their parents shopped the frozen food aisle, they would notice the box with KC on it and immediately point and say, “Duck! Duck!” It didn’t matter that they misidentified our penguin hero as a duck; even though they had a very limited vocabulary, our mascot gave kids something to reference—and their parents understood what their kids were asking for.
Mascots help facilitate requests from older kids and tweens as well. There are lots of times when they don’t remember the name of a product, especially if it’s new. A mascot gives them an easy way to let their parents know what they want. (“Can you get the granola bars with the skateboarder on it?”)
For more insight into the world of kids’ marketing and innovation, check out my article featuring 5 tips on developing flavors for kids.
Need help strengthening your kids’ innovation strategy or coming up with your next great youth or family-targeted offering? Contact Cherri Prince to learn how Seed can help.
Adam Siegel is the Editor of The Accelerator and VP, Creative at Seed Strategy where he draws upon his 20+ years researching, advertising and creating new products for kids to help clients win in the youth and young family market.
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