Saturday, September 18, 2010

Why brand characters?

Well, that is the question that I asked myself as I read the ‘name three popular brand characters’ thread in one of the many Linked In groups that I follow. We’ve all come across famous brand characters as we meet brands advertised and promoted. There are the really famous ones like the Michelin man, the Duracell bunny and the Andrex puppy. And there are the local ones, in Sweden we have the Tele2 sheep and the rather annoying Boxer guy Robert…

So what’s the point of them then and why do companies bother? As I can see it there are a few strong advantages of creating brand characters:

To emphasise a relevant, differentiated benefit
Brand characters are often chosen because they are the advocates of a benefit that the company in question wants to own. In the case of the Tele2 sheep, Tele2 must have come to the conclusion that ‘different due to cheap’ was the most important benefit to emphasise, and… hurrah. The agency came up with the idea that cheap and sheep were connecting words that one could easily play with… and since differentiation is also a key benefit of Tele2 the black sheep was born! The Duracell rabbit is another great example born from the same logic.

To create a holder for storytelling
Brand characters are the perfect holding devices for storytelling. And advertising agencies, at least in Sweden, seem to love to create long (way too long!?) running stories around brands. One example in Sweden are the characters in the ICA commercials. ICA Stig and his colleagues play in a long-winding soap-opera. Personally I’m a bit tired of those ads but because the characters are recognised, the costs are covered by brand owners and the format is so incredibly engrained in people’s mind I’m afraid they might just last forever… ICA Stig goes strong. A favourite of mine is the Ipren man, a made-up character that supports the brand message and new innovations. I enjoyed seeing the Ipren guy in a new settings in the latest ad which I’ve written about before.

To create recognition and ad brand recall
Lastly brand characters are great tools to create brand recognition and brand recall. When you’ve got a brand character strongly associated with a brand, all future communication that clearly displays that character will act as a snapshot reminder of the brand and its benefits. So if you only see a few seconds of an ad you might miss out on the message and the brand logo but at least the actor i.e. the brand character will serve to effectively remind you of the brand. Tele2 very clearly displays its black sheep in all sorts of consumer facing communication whether its TV ads, print, digital or packaging. You surely cannot miss the sheep – cheap connection however hard you try.

I believe these three reasons are the key reasons why we see more and more brand characters supporting the message of brands. There are of course also some issue if you choose this path – and I will get back to those asap. But for now, I hope the above makes some interesting reading. And do let me know if you think I’ve missed out on some additional fantastic benefit of creating supporting act brand characters. Bye for now.

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