You've got a great front line staff representing you day in and day out. You have one or more ATMs with your logo on or at least near it. You've got a professional looking website with great navigation. You've got all these things representing your brand to the best of their capability, but...
Have you got a life-size, fluffy animal suit?
Some financial institutions are adopting mascots as a fun and crowd-friendly way to personify their brands. Let's take a look at who's doing what.
I asked Mt. Lehman Credit Union general Manager Gene Blishen about their mascot, Payday. "The mascot has been successful. We looked at it because of the necessity of having a presence in parades and at events. It was too time consuming in both people and money to think of having a float in a parade. The mascot is your 'comic' brand and works extremely well with children. Our presence at the local level is much better with it than without it."
Not only did Envision create a mascot in costume form, they also developed two inflatable red frogs that more closely resembled the character in the Redfrog logo. The inflatable version comes with its own complications ("But mommy, why CAN'T I bounce on the big froggy?"), but it creates a great visual key that SOMETHING IS HAPPENING in a unique way that standard event tents can't match.
In deciding to mascot or not to mascot, cost can also be a factor.
Expect to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 per suit or inflatable, depending on the intricacies of the costume. In this instance, Currency Marketing worked directly with the company that manufactured the inflatable frog. They worked from a supplied digital artwork file and a few phone calls to clarify details. As you can see, the results were incredible and the process very simple.
The comfy chair
You may remember the comfy chair's first appearance back in the 70s as a tool of torture. TD Canada Trust has put quite a different spin on it of late, tying the leathery, green giant to the bank's tagline "Banking can be this comfortable." From what I was told by staff, the chair travels with handlers and a four-inch thick manual. There are rules for the chair. There is an etiquette of decorum for the chair. There are multiple chairs for various "chair conditions." The chair is a high-maintenance celebrity in its own right!
I thought it would be interesting to test the boundaries. At a recent branch opening I was the only one to ask to be photographed in the chair. This drew stares from others sipping their free coffee and nibbling their free cookies (and a look of horror from my daughter, who then had to take the picture.)
People were asked to move when I sat in the chair, to afford me a better picture. I bounced in the chair (allowed), patted the chair robustly (allowed), but could not stand on it (not disallowed, but I'm sure I would have been strong-armed away).
David Stanger, president of DSA Media says about mascots. "In advertising campaigns, mascots are often used to represent the brand, or help the brand stand out from the competition. If you think about the quick-service restaurant category and consider iconic characters like Ronald McDonald, the Burger King and the A&W Root Bear, the presence of those "mascots" in advertising messages is meant to instantly help a consumer identify who is speaking to them."
While I think the chair ties very well with the TD's brand of "comfort", I also find it ironic (or typical?) that a bank chose a piece of furniture while the two credit unions chose something that can move and interact with people.
So... is it for everyone?
Gene recommends having a firm plan of how you will use it before you start googling "fuzzy animals."
"Credit unions should know beforehand where it will be used and what strategy they will follow on usage. It is one of those things that sound great but you really need to make sure the mascot gets used." Gene also notes that the more often they use it, the more economical the expense becomes. Having a utilization plan is a great way to keep your mascot from being the "white elephant" in the closet!
David echoes Gene, restating the need to have a full understanding of what role the mascot will play. He also had a few caveats.
"The use of a mascot as a product [vs. brand] differentiator can be very effective, but here's the pitfall. If the advertiser is not careful, the mascot can overpower or overshadow the brand, to the point where the mascot becomes the brand. On a positive note, the advertiser ends up with a very memorable ad campaign, with a recognizable character, and a high top-of-mind awareness score. However, once you get beyond the mascot, the consumers can recall little about the specific message or offer that was attached to the mascot's message. The end result is disappointing in terms of sales and traffic."
Does your credit union have a mascot? Is it considering one? If so, share your story with us.
P.S. Gene, I would have no problem being Payday at one of your events!