Where Ad Mascots Go for a Makeover
Topic Introduction to Marketing
Key Words Branding, advertising mascot, trademarked symbol, packaging
InfoTrac Reference A151392947
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News Story 

What do the Pillsbury Doughboy, "Buzz" the Honey Nut Cheerios bee, and "Lucky" the Leprechaun have in common? They are well known product mascots. The famous icons have something else in common: all have received makeovers from Character, a Portland, Oregon marketing firm that specializes in ad-mascot character development. Launched in 2002, Character generates about $2 million in annual revenue, serving a clientele that includes Cadbury Schweppes, Kellogg's, and Procter & Gamble.

Creative execs at the marketing studio have two main objectives: to bring new life to old brand characters and to drive sales. While packaging-oriented studios may emphasize the design elements of a brand icon, Character's brand enhancements are more than trade dress: they are marketing magic. PepsiCo saw root beer sales increase after Character revitalized Mug Root Beer's logo with a cartoon dog. General Mills watched its Honey Nut Cheerios surge to the No. 2 spot after Character gave mascot "Buzz" a new look.

Though its bread-and-butter business is mascot revitalization, Character has occasionally ventured into non-character marketing projects. The firm has recently signed on to noncritter projects for Chrysler, Old Spice, Tostitos, and Wal-Mart. David Altschul, the company's co-founder, sees the expansion as a natural progression. "After four years we proved our model," remarks Altschul, "and now we're going back to the territory we wanted to occupy in the first place—bringing story to every brand."

Expansion is part of any firm's plan, but signing on to noncritter work for top-tier clients could change Character's core business. Savvy entrepreneurs like Altschul are unlikely to turn down new opportunities to partner with multinational corporations. Why limit the business, especially given that most of the world's premier brands lack a mascot? Even so, Altschul's new direction raises an interesting question: Could a company called Character, with proprietary Character Camps and a résumé of brand icons, evolve into a business that's character-free? It seems unlikely. For Altschul and his mascot makeover artists, such would be, well, out of character.

Questions
1.

Why do marketers invest so much money into the ongoing development of advertising mascots like "Buzz" the Honey Nut Cheerios bee or the Pillsbury Doughboy?

2.

According to the article, how does Character give new life to tired brands and worn out product mascots? What are the characteristics of successful mascots?

Source Carlye Adler, "Mascot Makeover," FSB, Oct 2006 v16 i8 p30
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