There are a plenty of marketing stories of mascots leading to phenomenal success of a brand in India and abroad. In the Indian market, Amul’s butter girl, Nerolac’s yellow Goody and Air-India’s Maharaja have successfully built brands over the years. How do mascots help towards brand building and if they work well, why have the examples of mascots been so few?
While it’s pretty easy to understand the marketer’s temptation to use celebrities as brand ambassadors, it's interesting to study brand ambassadors vis-a-vis brand mascots.
Jitender Bhargava, Director, Public Relations, Air-India, said, “Brand ambassadors possess the power to draw instant attention, while mascots work over a period of time but help tremendously in brand recognition.”
It is also true that mascots don’t cost as much as brand ambassadors do. Mascots are also the brand’s exclusive property unlike brand ambassadors who may endorse other brands too. Agreeing to this point, R S Sodhi, Chief General Manager, Amul, said that while star celebrities may succeed in drawing instant attention, the effect is often short-lived, whereas a mascot is retained in the customer’s mind and becomes the brand’s identity.
One more area where mascots score over brand ambassadors is that of age. While brand ambassadors may age, mascots can stay contemporary and always young.
The role that a mascot plays is more than that of a brand ambassador who just endorses the brand. He is the face of the brand and will come in the picture whenever there is a communication with the customer. Putting forth his view in the form of rhetoric, Amit Jatia, Joint Venture Partner and Managing Director - McDonald’s (Western India), said, “While all brand mascots are necessarily brand ambassadors, the converse doesn’t hold true.”
Bhargava, while throwing light on Air-India’s making of the successful mascot Maharaja, said, “Maharaja – our mascot comes handy whenever there is a need to communicate with customers about new schemes or campaigns or contests – be it anything.”
It sets the mind wondering how Maharaja -- the turban-clad, ever-graceful mascot -- has talked with travellers all over the globe since it came into being first in 1946.
Another case in point is Amul’s butter girl who is there to express her pleasure when India wins a match or shed tears when a bigwig passes away. Anand Halve of Chlorophyll pointed out, “One reason why Amul’s butter girl has been successful as a mascot is the sheer flexibility that it allows. Whether it is a happy moment or a sad one, it is so easy to relate with her as face of Amul because it is not restricted to one particular image. This is also more advisable to do rather than have a mascot that goes over the top though, with a singular image.”
While brand ambassadors go through good and bad patches which may be quite influential for the brand, a mascot is always well within the control of the brand development team. C Venugopal, General Manager, Marketing, Goodlass Nerolac, said, “A brand ambassador has a life-cycle while a mascot’s life is totally in control. Untoward experiences of brand ambassador may affect the brand’s image but the same is not true for mascots.”
One more unique feature about mascots is that they accompany a brand throughout its life cycle. Emphasising on the need to continue with a mascot all through, Venugopal said, “A mascot should never be discontinued unless the brand itself is discontinued. It is akin to taking the soul out of the body.”
Low costs, delivers the message better, enjoys better recall, with so many positives, the obvious question that one might be tempted to ask is ‘Why we don’t have more mascots being developed of late?’
Sodhi said, “Mascots need a lot of time and attention to build them. Today’s marketers and advertisers perhaps direct their energies towards short-term results, which may make them think twice before developing a mascot.”
Marketers have the choice to go for their best brand ambassador – a well created mascot. Will they exercise this choice but?