Brand Mascots Just Memorable Characters, or Social Capital?


They are an undeniable part of our culture. From The Man in the Hathaway Shirt, to The Most Interesting Man in the World, to the GEICO Gecko, you can’t deny that – when done right – fictional brand characters can live well beyond a campaign and become a memorable part of our lives.

And with the rise of the social web, we’ve seen a number of these characters try their hand at becoming a part of our online lives as well. The question is can that be effective?

A brand’s authenticity and transparency are two of the most important characteristics of an effective brand presence in social media. So how do you reconcile that to effectively leverage these brand mascots and use them right?

I took a look at a number of well known brand mascots being used online with the hope of answering two questions: (1) how are brands using these mascots as part of their social media strategy and (2) what makes it work.

I could go on and on about all kinds of brand mascots and how they are being used in social media, but I chose to look at three of my personal favorites to see how they are being used specifically on Facebook.

The Most Interesting Man in the World (Dos Equis)


Before I started researching, he already knew he would be on the list.

How he’s being used: When you’re the most interesting man in the world, people want to hear what you have to say and this guy is never at a loss for words. Dos Equis has taken those memorable quotes and created a sort of ongoing quote-roll where the brand and fans alike can showcase their reasons why he’s so interesting.

What makes it work: The beer industry (mostly due to the 800 lb gorillas in St. Louis and Milwaukee) has historically been a battle of ad budgets and Super Bowl spots with few characters having the attributes necessary to extend into social media. By positioning this character with an endless number of one-liners, Dos Equis has created something for fans to congregate around what might he say next, and can I do him one better?

Flo the Progressive Girl (Progressive Insurance)


Love her or hate her, you can’t deny the value of this friendly insurance clerk.

How she’s being used: Progressive has set up Flo as a supplemental Facebook presence, having both Progressive and Flo fan pages. By doing so, fans are able to enjoy Flo’s character personality, while not sacrificing the credibility and service necessary for an insurance product. At the same time, they have integrated Flo visually across both fan pages to provide some semblance of brand consistency.

What makes it work: The most unique element of a service product compared to a CPG is the importance of service for existing customers. Not all Flo fans are going to be Progressive customers, so understanding that are being able to separate the content Flo fans are looking for from those that a customer with a policy issue might be looking has allowed Flo’s page to balloon to over 2.4 million fans.

The Roaming Gnome (Travelocity)

The Roaming Gnome

Need a deal? He’s your gnome.

How he’s being used: Travelocity has established the Roaming Gnome as the brand’s social voice and distributor of travel deals to its fan base. He delivers the deals, while also interacting with the community and encouraging fans to share their Gnomed selves for a chance to be the Fan of the Week.

What makes it work: With a recent study showing that the highest percentage of consumers (40%) are motivated to like a brand on Facebook by discounts and promotions, Travelocity has one of the easier tasks for finding a way to integrate a brand mascot into social media. The integration of the character as the brand’s social voice coupled with fun sharable content like “Gnoming Yourself” allows Travelocity to take advantage of the character’s unique attributes, while not sacrificing the ultimate value that it provides deals.

So what have I learned? You mean other than that I want to hang out with The Most Interesting Man in the World? Here are three key takeaways:

  • Understand what you fans want from your brand in social media. If your brand involves an element of customer service (e.g., insurance), you will need to develop a strategic approach to leveraging your brand mascot, while not sacrificing the value you can provide to your fan community.
  • Be selective about the characteristics you choose to leverage. Dos Equis found an opportunity in the now-famous list of reasons why their character is so darn interesting. Rather than simply recreating an ad on Facebook, look for those unique attributes that make people talk, and use it.
  • Brand mascots come and go but the brand will always be there. Campaigns change. Brands move on. It’s the nature of advertising. You need to keep in mind that these brand mascots might not be there for you to hang your hat on, so look for ways to get the most out of them while also maintaining the integrity of the brand’s ultimate personality.

Stay social, my friends