Baiting title aside, Mickey Mouse really is more popular than Bugs Bunny. He sells a lot more merchandise, appears in far more places around the world and is lauded as a mascot for the company that operates ‘The Happiest Place on Earth.’ Bugs never even got such opportunities and yet as a character, he is far superior to Mickey. Why is that?
They’ve been around for years and for many, they’re a part of their childhood, or even their entire lives (I’m looking at you, Snap, Crackle and Pop), but mascots are an interesting bunch of characters, aren’t they?
Think about it, they’re ostensibly characters, but their appearances are often limited to 30 second commercials and perhaps some rudimentary comics on the packaging (or when you sent in so many coupons and 3.99 p&p).
The reason this struck a chord with me is because I came (or rather stumbled) across the twitter feed for Chicken of the Sea, who apparently have, as their spokeswomen, the Chicken of the Sea Mermaid.
Yup, the mascot for a tuna company is a mermaid. A bit of a conflict of interest there if you ask me, but I’m not one to judge.
It makes me wonder how the public really feels about such characters. I mean, we expect the ones in TV shows to be fully developed, complicated and conflicted beings. But our standards for commercial characters are so much lower.
Is it because we only see them for 30 seconds at a time, or is it more likely that we see them as exceptionally shallow; created for the single purpose of selling us stuff.
Of course, we often forget that characters in TV shows and films sell us stuff too, it just isn’t as blatant as an actual commercial.
Some of the longest-lived brand mascots have evolved well beyond their initial function. Indeed the 1980s saw brands and mascots descend upon TV and film like never before. Now the lines were seriously blurred between spokesman and character, even if the quality of both were similarly flimsy.
Or how about real characters shilling stuff?
Do we have a certain tolerance for Bugs and Daffy filling the role because it’s more of a sideshow for them?
Brand mascots and spokespersons are an interesting study area as they inhabit a unique culmination of art and commerce. Getting the balance right between the two is hard.
What are your thoughts on brand mascots and characters?