Are brand mascots a big part of your company’s marketing efforts? Companies such as GEICO, McDonald’s, and Michelin are inseparable from their mascots — the GEICO Gecko, Ronald McDonald, and the Michelin Man — respectively. Though your mascot may be a big hit domestically, ask yourself these three essential questions, before you include it in your next international marketing campaign:
1. Is It Culturally Relevant?
The primary purpose of a mascot is to represent your brand in a way that will evoke positive feelings in consumers. However, if your mascot doesn’t have any cultural relevance in the market you are trying to reach, consumers could be confused. For example, mascots Wenlock and Mandeville for the 2012 Summer Olympics were supposed to represent shards of metal on the London Olympic structure that magically gained sentience through the power of a rainbow. However, because living pieces of metal have no cultural relevance to international audiences, many were confused by these brand mascots. The Guardian even went as far as to say that these mascots were the “worst ever.”
2. Could It Be Offensive?
Because a mascot is the literal “face” of your brand, making a cultural faux pas could turn consumers against you. When the French and Latin American McDonald’s mascot “Happy” was brought to the United States in 2014, many found images of the character donning Native American clothing to be racist, according to The Daily Dot. The character has not been scrapped in the U.S. market, but its use has been scaled back.
3. How Does It Advance My Brand’s Values?
When French computing company Groupe Bull Worldwide Information Systems expanded to the United States and then shortened its name to Bull Whiz, U.S. consumers were understandably turned off. Though there is nothing inherently offensive about this mascot, the name and character combination didn’t exactly inspire confidence. The mascot didn’t reach the broad audience it could have if proper localization research had been done. Inc. refers to this mascot error as one of the biggest brand blunders of all time.
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