Chatting with Advertising’s Most Iconic Mascots

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Jason Werre: As a child (okay, and still to this day) my all-time favorite mascot was Tony the Tiger for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. His upbeat attitude in television commercials and advertisements did a fantastic job of getting kids excited about eating Frosted Flakes. The “Earn Your Stripes” campaign was also a big success in my eyes, as it effectively linked the cereal to athleticism and fitness. Tony encouraged kids to get up and move, while also providing great branding for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. Plus, his catchphrase, “They’re GR-R-REAT!” is inarguably one of the most memorable, iconic mascot mottos of all time.

I see brand mascots as a perfect way for a company to form a connection with their customers. By putting a face of sorts on their brand, they can encourage the consumer to see their brand on a more personal level, with the end goal of the consumer feeling more comfortable buying that company’s products. Additionally, a mascot can also bring about a sense of nostalgia. As I said, Tony the Tiger was my favorite when I was younger, and I still remember seeing commercials for Frosted Flakes while watching Saturday morning cartoons. Now I view Frosted Flakes in a favorable way because it reminds me of my childhood. This is a very powerful, very positive effect that a mascot can produce for a brand.

Mckenzie Halling: I grew up in a small, rural Wisconsin town. My hometown’s only claim to fame is that the first Culvers was originated there. The East Coast has Dunkin Donuts and Shake Shack, the South has Chick-fil-A and In-and-Out, the West Coast has Jack in the Box, and the Midwest has Culvers. Culvers, often referred to as the community dining table, is my town’s pride and joy.

The Culvers mascot is a giant cone of frozen custard named Scoopie, and he, therefore, is a mascot for my town as well. I have seen firsthand the way a community can bond over a brand icon. When Scoopie walks into an elementary school, kids cheer and want to hug him. When Scoopie walks in the local parade, people wave and smile. Culvers makes our town a community; it brings people together over a shared love and pride in something. And during events, Scoopie is Culvers’ branch into joining the community.

Like the brand icons we saw today, Mr. Peanut, Charlie the Tuna and Smokey the Bear, Scoopie allows its brand to make a real, face-to-face (or more like face-to-mask) connection to the people who support their business. These mascots make the brand more than just another corporation– the mascots show that these companies care about being a part of your community and care about building long-term relationships with you. Scoopie will always be a part of the Sauk City, Wisconsin community and because of this loving relationship Scoopie, Culvers will always remain in the hearts of its customers.

Taylor Beer: Growing up in Wisconsin with an alum from the University of Wisconsin-Madison as a mother; Bucky Badger was a mascot that was always present. Whether it was on sports wear or a physical, singing Bucky (yes, we really do have one of these at my house) he was always embodying the UW brand. Different than other mascots help their brands sell products, Bucky sells an experience to those who have a personal connection to UW but as a general audience to let people know what attending UW-Madison can do for you.

I guess that all of these subtle awarenesses of Bucky influenced me because I began attending UW in the fall of 2014. As I interact with Bucky and the UW brand more intimately I reflect on the importance of even the subconscious interactions we all have with brands and mascots everyday. While I didn’t know it at the time, this mascot was the way that I was interacting with a University during my childhood. And when it came time to choose a school the familiarity of Bucky led me to UW-Madison.

Simone Greblo: I inherited my Target addiction from my mom at a very young age, and with that early-onset addiction came a love for and appreciation of Target’s brand. Target’s brand hasn’t changed drastically in the past few decades, but in 1999 they introduced Bullseye, an English Bull Terrier as their official mascot. At four years old I was a huge dog lover and a big media consumer (both are true today and I always will be), so when I was watching Nickelodeon or flipping through the newspaper looking for the comics I found myself seeing this cute white dog with a bullseye being used to sell people on Target. Obviously at four years old this was not my thought process, which probable looked more like: “That puppy’s cute. Oh it’s Target! I love Target. Mom can we go to Target?” Target’s brand is reflective of traditional family values with a modern twist, and a dog is a classic symbol of family.

Bullseye was one of my favorite mascots growing up and remains a favorite to this day. Brand mascots are a memorable and easily recognizable way to improve brand recognition while adding a human-like element to the brand. While Bullseye has no human qualities – he is a dog after all – he reminds consumers that Target is accessible and relevant to the average American family. A strong mascot can stick with a brand throughout the years, just as Bullseye has, and can resonate across generations. Oftentimes mascots are able to withstand the test of time and are the one thing that remains constant as companies inevitably undergo changes and rebranding – meaning consumers can always rely on them no matter what.

Nali Mullan: To me, mascots are one of the most important aspects of a brand. They visually represent a brand and are able to use their voices to connect with a brand’s community. Okay — maybe “voices” isn’t right considering most mascots generally don’t speak. I’ll try again: Mascots are able to use their high-fives, hand gestures and social media accounts to connect with a brand’s community. These connections are extremely valuable as they provide memories and positive associations between brands and their consumers.

My favorite mascot happens to be Snoopy from the Peanuts comics by Charles M. Schulz. My connection with the Peanuts brand began at a young age. I grew up in the Twin Cities, Minnesota area where the best thing to do as a kid was go to Camp Snoopy. Camp Snoopy was then (and in my mind still is and forever will be) the name of the amusement park located inside the Mall of America. I was always so excited to see Snoopy walking around the park so I could run up for a hug and a picture.

Schulz, Snoopy’s creator, was also from St. Paul. So when he passed away in 2000, local artists honored his legacy by creating beautifully designed statues of Snoopy and placing them throughout the city. My family made it a game to find all of the different Snoopys. In fact, my dad arranged photos of the statues to create Snoopy bingo cards that he distributed to our family. Packing into cars with my sister and cousins, looking for Snoopy statues, made for some of the best memories of my childhood. To this day I have a soft spot for the Peanuts brand, and I strongly believe that it wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for their mascot, Snoopy.

Laura: I was a big juice drinker growing up, and the juice I always gravitated towards was Kool-Aid solely because I loved the Kool-Aid Man. The iconic commercials of the Kool-Aid Man breaking through walls were endlessly hilarious to me, and the fact that a weird jug of juice wearing shorts could make me laugh simply by exclaiming “Oh yeah!” drew me to their products. In my mind, the Kool-Aid Man stood for fun, a departure from boring, conventional drinks that I could get anywhere. Kool-Aid became a beverage that I consumed on adventures, whether it was a summer picnic in the park, a visit to my Grandma’s house on the beach or a sleepover at a friend’s house.

Mascots like the Kool-Aid Man are a smart branding tool for companies to use because they help people understand the product. Mascots are characters, so they have personalities, attitudes and an overall look that works towards establishing and communicating the identity of a brand. Mascots also offer the opportunity to build a consistent narrative that consumers will recognize even as the company’s products might change and evolve. They become a symbol of familiarity even when ways of advertising and technology change.

Xinyi Wang: Growing up in China, most of the brands surrounded my life were not represented by mascots. However, there were a few that I can still remember today being deeply fascinated to, and one of them has to be the infamous, Ronald McDonald. Like most countries in the world, Mr. McDonald is not only the representation of fast food but also America. When the first McDonald branch was finally opened in my city, the mascot Ronald McDonald would always hang out around the store and played with the kids. One picture with him when I was 9 had always been kept in our family photo album. To the childhood me, he was the epitome of western culture and his vibrant colored clothes and hair always made me laugh.

Just like many other brand mascots, Ronald Donald is seen less and less outside of a McDonald’s store now. They mostly lived in people’s head now as a nostalgic memory. The image they represent not only carries the brand, but also memory. I think brands nowadays are trying so hard to capture people on technology that they forget mascots. If it weren’t for Ronald McDonald, my dream of studying abroad to America wouldn’t start. I hope in the future, more brands can integrate their mascots to digital, but also, keep it for people like me.

Nali Mullan

Writer at Advertising Week
Nali Mullan is a senior at UW-Madison in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. As well as earning her degree in journalism, Nali is also pursuing certificates in both environmental studies and French. Outside of the classroom, Nali enjoys creating digital designs and playing hockey.
Nali Mullan

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