Of Maurice Wigglethorpe-Throom, meerkats and brand mascots

Pinterest LinkedIn Tumblr was a clever, inspired piece of advertising. It was an advertising property which served the brand, very well for years. In December last year the brand introduced Maurice Wigglethorpe-Throom, CEO and founder of the comparison site, and his assistant Spencer.

In an as yet unreleased (to the public) spot, Maurice and Spencer explain what credit card interests can do to you. This by far is the best analogy I have come across to explain how credit card interest rates affect you.

On the question of advertising properties, especially those which have worked well to establish the brand: do some marketers & agencies give up on the property too soon? I am using the term ‘brand property’ to include advertising or brand mascots (M&Ms, Ronald McDonald) or a distinct creative mnemonic (the Rin lightning, Britannia audio refrain, Zoozoos) or property here.

I don’t know enough about Comparethemeerkats and how well the property of ‘Meerkat’s worked for them. But I do know that marketers and agencies get tired of their own creations far sooner than the consumer does. Many meetings over a few months with every piece of communication featuring the same brand property or advertising character makes the team wonder if they are over doing it. Sometimes, a new marketing team or brand manager comes in with an aim to ‘start afresh’ and views everything created prior to his or her stint with the ‘not-invented-here’ perspective. Often, that translates to challenging the agency team to come up with new ideas (and throw out the old ones) or calling for a pitch. The frequent changes in the marketing & brand management team doesn’t help the case for consistency of brand communication either – with every new brand manager keen to make his own mark in the short stint at the client company.

Of course, there are valid reasons for discontinuing a brand property – it no longer serves the business objective, no relevance to the target audience, lacks unique differentiation etc. Maybe the starting point is to define the role of the brand property (mascot, mnemonic etc) and what its meant to achieve: aid brand recall (a la the Sony, Britannia audio refrains, M&Ms, the Meerkat), reinforce the brand benefit (Rin Lightning) or any other brand-specific objective. And once the brand property is decided upon, back it up to the hilt in the market place – no half measures.

In Comparethemarket’s case maybe there was some ambiguity about ‘Compare the Market’ and ‘Compare the Meerkat’ being two different properties. The ad introducing Maurice did allude to that and hence the need for doing away with the meerkats in the TV ads. The site, however still promotes the meerkat merchandise so they are not completely severing their association.

So when should a company decide to stop using a mascot? Any examples of mascots which you think should be brought back or discontinued? Do comment in.

photo credit: Beverly & Pack via photopin cc

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