Brand Characters

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One of my favorite TV spots running right now is the 2015 Kia Soul hamster commercial featuring the new hit song "Animals." I love these spots because of the music and let's be honest… the hamster dancing. Who would've ever thought such a silly idea would be so memorable, humorous and bring so much attention? I would love to know all about the thinking that went on behind the scenes. Why hamsters? 

Let's talk a minute about using brand characters, icons or personality symbols in ad campaigns. In today's world, visual often trumps the written word. Often times, using characters can bring instant recognition across many media outlets from print to video. In an article written by LeeBeth Cranmer entitled Using Brand Characters to Create Enduring Brand Appeal, Cranmer explains how brand character appeal is tied to visual recall. Did you know that the brain has more cortex devoted to processing visual information that our other senses? We're programmed to retrieve visual information more than auditory information. 

Leo Burnett, infamous in the '60s-era Chicago agency, was renowned for creating many memorable and successful character icons for his brands: Marlboro Man, Jolly Green Giant, Tony the Tiger and many others.  Burnett's goal was to leave his consumers with a "brand picture engraved in their consciousness," and his team would research different symbols that would do just that. He believed the right image could bypass a consumers' critical thought process and appeal directly to emotions and the subconscious. 

So what about the character icons aimed directly toward children -- like Lucky the Leprechaun, Chester the Cheetah and Ronald McDonald? Did you know that researchers have found that children like and trust mascots and are more likely to believe that brands associated with them are better tasting and better for you? And even more interesting is the fact that many studies show that these childhood memories last into adulthood.

The goal for agencies like FitzMartin is to always make sure brand characters are relevant and appealing to modern consumers. Character icons can be fun and catchy, but we first have to consider whether clients have products or services that benefit from a character icon. In the B2B sector, there is not much of this, but it is a good thing to remember as we try to make brands and companies "stick out" in the minds of consumers.

We recently came across a company rebrand project where we were brainstorming using a spokesperson who would act as a brand icon and leader. Although we didn't choose the spokesperson idea, this kind of creative thinking led to some amazing TV spots that we're producing right now!  Stay tuned...

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